An Evaluation of the Impact of City of Austin’s Hands-Free Ordinance on the Number of Reported Collisions
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Purpose. Scholars have generally accepted that using a hand-held device such as a cell phone while driving is a distraction and dangerous. Distracted driving has become a public safety concern, which is evident by the passage of a number of city and state laws banning the use of cell phones while driving. There is no consensus on the effectiveness of legislation that bans the use of hand-held devices while driving. The purpose of this research is to evaluate the impact of the 2015 City of Austin, Texas ordinance prohibiting the use of all portable (hand-held) electronic devices while operating a vehicle or bicycle on the number of reported collisions. Method. The research design for this analysis is an interrupted time series with a comparison group. This study utilizes daily aggregated traffic accident data as the dependent variable and controls for precipitation and temperature. Data was gathered and analyzed 60 days before and after the implementation of the hands-free ordinance, while removing the 30 days immediately prior and after the ordinance to remove sensitivity. Results. The regression analysis results indicate there is not a statistically significant relationship or correlation between the City of Austin's Hands-Free ordinance and reported collisions during the analyzed time period. In contrast, the results show a slight increase in the number of reported collisions shortly following the implementation of the ordinance. Conclusions. The City of Austin's Hands-Free ordinance implemented 1/1/2015 did not have the desired impact of lowering the number of reported collisions during the time period analyzed. This suggests that either drivers are not abiding by the new law or that operating a cell phone hands-free is just as dangerous as hand-held.