Connecticut Bans Most Cell Phone Use While Driving, Part 1: Does It Actually Reduce Accidents?

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file000666325359-1.jpgConnecticut bans the use of handheld mobile devices, mainly cell phones, while driving, with even stricter bans for school bus drivers and young drivers. Numerous campaigns seek to raise awareness of the dangers of “distracted driving,” which refers to operating a vehicle while also using a cell phone or other mobile to device to talk, or to read or compose emails or text messages. Every state in the U.S. has banned some aspect of distracted driving, with Connecticut’s ban being one of the strictest, and the federal government has called on states to further restrict cell phone use by drivers. Distracted driving almost undoubtedly creates additional risk of accidents, but research has suggested that bans, like the one in Connecticut, do not significantly impact the number of automobile accidents. Bans on distracted driving may still be helpful to plaintiffs in personal injury cases though, as the violation of a ban may assist in establishing negligence.

The use of handheld cell phones while driving, by holding the phone “to, or in the immediate proximity of, the user’s ear,” has been prohibited for all drivers in Connecticut since 2005. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-296aa(a)(2), (b)(1). Connecticut’s law is one of the most comprehensive in the nation, as it is one of only ten states that prohibits all handheld cell phone use. The law does not prohibit most drivers from using hands-free accessories with a cell phone, such as a headset, with exceptions for school bus drivers on duty and drivers under the age of eighteen. Id. at (c)-(d). The statute also prohibits all drivers from sending or reading text messages while driving. Id. at (b)(2). It is a primary law, meaning that a police officer can stop a vehicle and issue a ticket solely for violation of the ban. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called on state governments to ban all cellphone use while driving, including use involving hands-free accessories. No state has enacted such a ban so far.