Stringent enforcement of laws that ban the use of handheld cell phones at the wheel leads to a drop in the number of violations. However, there is no substantial or corresponding decline in accidents.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety went through two enforcement efforts, conducted in Hartford in Connecticut and Syracuse in New York. These enforcement campaigns were conducted between April 2010 and April 2011. The campaigns were specifically targeted at cracking down on persons who used hand-held cell phones while driving. California too has a law that bans the use of handheld cell phones at the wheel, although the state was not included in the study.
After the enforcement, the number of motorists who violated the hand-held cell phone ban dropped by approximately 57% in the case of Hartford, and 32% in the case of Syracuse. In both of these communities, the rates of texting also dropped sharply. However, the study did not find any corresponding drop in the number of insurance claims that were filed after accidents in these communities.
As any Los Angeles car accident lawyer will tell you, distractions do not simply involve only manual distractions like holding a cell phone. Distractions and the kind of effect that they have on motorist attention is still a very complex area of research that has not been fully explored. That's why we continue to have laws that ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, but do nothing to ban other types of distracting behaviors.
The laws also currently don't appreciate how the age of the motorists contributes to a higher effect of the distractions. For instance, teenage motorists have a shorter attention span and are much more likely to be distracted, compared to adult motorists.