Empirical Economics

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 853–876 | Cite as

Are handheld cell phone and texting bans really effective in reducing fatalities?

  • Leandro Rocco
  • Breno Sampaio


This paper aims at evaluating if texting and handheld cell phone bans are effective in reducing the number of fatalities occurring in motor vehicle crashes using US county-level data. In the past two decades, many debates have been going on among policy makers regarding the impact of using mobile phone devices while driving. This political debate is partially motivated by the lack of clear empirical evidence on the relationship between cell phone use, bans and driving performance. Our results show that states that enacted primary cell phone bans experienced a significant reduction in the number of fatalities. Primary texting bans also affected fatalities, but this effect was significantly smaller than that estimated for handheld cell phone bans. This is an important and contradicting result, given most of the legislative activity in 2012 focused on text messaging behind the wheel, considered the most dangerous of the distracted driving activities. Additionally, we looked at how heterogeneous were these effects among states that enacted such bans. We observed that all states benefited from the ban in terms of fatality reduction; however, some were highly affected (such as CA and DC) and some affected in small scale (such as UT and WA).


Cell phone ban Legislation Distracted driving  Motor vehicle fatalities 

JEL Classification

R41 R48 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Universidade Federal do CearaFortalezaBrazil
  3. 3.Universidade Federal de PernambucoRecifeBrazil

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