Mike Stevens | Feb 8, 2010

BANNING THE USE of mobile phones while driving may not result in a significant decrease in traffic accidents, according to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) in the US.

The study - which collected data from four US states that have mobile phone bans in place - showed that accident rates in states with and states without bans remained largely unchanged.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which sponsored the non-profit HLDI's study, the issue is distracted driving in general, rather than the use of mobile phones specifically.

"People have been driving distracted since cars were invented," Russ Rader, spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said.

"Focusing on mobile phones isn't the same as focusing on distracted driving. Distraction is what has always caused car crashes and mobile phones don't appear to be adding to that."

While the bans on mobile phones while driving appears to have had little affect on accident rates, the study showed that more drivers are now using hands-free technology while driving.

"Hands-free device are no less risky than using a handheld phone," Rader said. "And this indicates that the issue is really about the distracted driver. It's much bigger than drivers using mobile phones."

Interestingly, Rader said that while mobile phone use in the US has grown rapidly over the past decade - with more than 89 percent of the nation's population owning a mobile phone - there has been no correspondingly rapid increase in traffic accidents.

While the use of mobile phones while driving is largely banned in all Australian states, the move for a national law in the US - which currently only exist in a small number of its 50 states - is a recent initiative.

In December last year, the NSW police force conducted a 24-hour blitz which saw 1059 motorists caught talking or texting on their mobile phones while driving.

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