Taking away a person's cell phone doesn't necessarily make them a better driver.
According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study published in the August issue of the journal "Accident Analysis & Prevention," people who said they used their phones while driving were more likely to engage in other risky behavior like driving faster, changing lanes more frequently, hard braking and high acceleration. It concludes frequency of cell phone use seems related to "broader behavioral and personality traits" that should be considered when looking at ways to curb distracted driving.
Other studies have found mobile phone bans have done little to reduce accidents.
Ohio recently enacted a ban on texting while driving. While there are certainly other ways to be distracted behind the wheel, Lt. Mary Pfeifer, commander of the Ohio Highway patrol's Marietta post, said she thinks the ban will make a difference in traffic safety.
"There will be people that voluntarily comply with the law," she said.
Local residents on Thursday generally agreed, saying the ban was a good thing, even if people find other things to pay attention to when they should be watching the road.
"I've seen some girl driving, and she was, like, turning around talking to her friend in the backseat," said Kyla McConnell, 23, of Lowell. "(It) scared me because she was right next to me."
Whipple resident Helen Whiteley, 72, said she would never dream of texting behind the wheel but that doesn't mean her attention can't be drawn by something as simple as turning a dial on the radio or grabbing for her purse if it falls off the seat.
"I can be distracted. But I try not to be. I say, 'Helen, keep your eyes on the road,'" she said.
Marietta resident Charles Meeks, 67, said he believes texting is a bigger danger than many other potential distractions and some of the behaviors described in the study. He pointed to reports of fatal crashes in which texting was known to be a factor.
He said he would not support additional laws aimed at curbing specific behaviors.
"We can't have laws to guard against every little thing," he said. "We can go crazy with the laws."
In the study, 108 people were asked questions about their driving habits and attitudes, then their driving was monitored on the same route in Boston, without a cell phone, according to an article on news.sciencemag.org, the news site of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an international nonprofit organization. The study's abstract says those who reported using cell phones often when they drive were found to "drive faster, change lanes more frequently, spend more time in the left lane, and engage in more instances of hard braking and high acceleration events.
"They also scored higher in self-reported driving violations on the DBQ and reported more positive attitudes toward speeding and passing than drivers who did not report using a cell phone regularly while driving," it says.