Arlington, Virginia – The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has testified at a federal government hearing on the risks involved with using cellphones while driving, including hands-free units.

The IIHS said that the cumulative evidence from various types of studies points toward cellphone use as a risk factor for crashes and impaired driving performance. While studies have reached different estimates of the magnitude of the risk, well-controlled research on crash-involved drivers found that the risk of crashing was four times higher when a driver was talking on either a hand-held or hands-free phone.

Seven  states and the District of Columbia have banned hand-held cellphone use while driving, but the effects are mixed, and the effect on safety is not clear. Many drivers still use hand-held phones in spite of bans, while others may switch to hands-free units, which don’t help since the crash risk with either type of device is the same. Preliminary data from insurance claims for collision suggest there is no apparent reduction in crash risk after states enacted hand-held bans.

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