Date of Conferral





Public Health


Maria Rangel


There are inconsistencies in the published literature on the effect of cellular phone use while driving. The objective of this study was to estimate an adjusted nationwide crash rate associated with cell phone use while driving and to compare statewide crash rates prior to and following the implementation of legislation banning cell phone use while driving. Crash rates in nationally representative databases were calculated based on imputed values for cell phone use using the propensity score method. The imputed nationwide crash rate for fatal crashes (1.61 per 100 fatal crashes) and all crashes (1.409 per 100 crashes) represented a 2 and 6 fold increase, respectively, in the rates seen in the datasets before values for cell phone use were imputed, suggesting that cell phone crashes are indeed underreported. In addition to providing baseline crash rates for traffic safety professionals, researchers, and police officers, this study showed that phone use is indeed a contributing factor in some motor vehicle crashes and can empower individuals to engage in safer driving behaviors which may reduce motor vehicle crashes and the associated cost and societal burden. In states that had implemented bans on cell phone use while driving the fatal crash rate was significantly higher following the introduction of legislation, although there was an initial decline after implementation or changes in legislation. This finding has implications for public policy as it suggests that legislation could be effective in reducing crashes involving cell phone use, at least temporarily, thus reducing the injuries, societal cost and burden associated with motor vehicle crashes. The findings of this study indicate that while better data is needed, cellular phone use while driving should be avoided to minimize crash risk.