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Take away bad drivers' mobile phones, they still crash their cars

Jalopy-jabber crackdown achieves diddly squat - study

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Chinese researchers reckon its bad drivers who cause accidents, not the phones they're using at the time, and that banning in-car use doesn't reduce accident figures significantly.

The state-sponsored study was triggered by disappointing results from bans on mobile usage, which haven't reduced accidents as much as had been hoped, so rather than blame lackadaisical policing the researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science tried to identify the kind of person who makes calls while driving, and discovered they're pretty accident prone anyway.

We're grateful to Tech in Asia for the translation, which tells us that "frequent phone users indeed drove more dangerously than occasional phone users did, driving faster and more erratically, making more violent turns and overtaking more other drivers".

Drivers do have accidents while talking on the phone, which has led to bans on holding a telephone while talking and sending text messages - despite the existence of perfectly-good laws on "due care and attention" already. But now the Chinese Institute of Psychology, working with US counterparts, has surveyed drivers and discovered a close correlation between those who use a phone when driving, and those who drive dangerously even when not distracted.

The scale of the study isn't clear, and there's not yet a peer-reviewed paper to back up the claims, but the approach is interesting and it's true in other nations that bans on phone use haven't led to any great drop in accident statistics.

New laws banning phones and texting (as opposed to careless driving) are largely a political move - allowing authorities to be seen to be doing something without spending any money. If the Chinese results apply in other countries then the high-cost alternatives - better roads, more driver training, in-car surveillance by the insurance companies to prevent reckless driving - will have to be applied, at least until the cars can drive themselves. ®

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