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Wayne State study shows early research on cellphone conversations likely overestimated crash risk
Date:12/14/2011

DETROIT -- A Wayne State University study published in the January 2012 issue of the journal Epidemiology points out that two influential early studies of cellphone use and crash risk may have overestimated the relative risk of conversation on cellphones while driving.

In this new study, Richard Young, Ph.D., professor of research in Wayne State University's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences in the School of Medicine, examined possible bias in a 1997 Canadian study and a 2005 Australian study. These earlier studies used cellphone billing records of people who had been in a crash and compared their cellphone use just before the crash to the same time period the day (or week) before the control window.

Young said the issue with these studies is that people may not have been driving during the entire control window period, as assumed by the earlier study investigators.

"Earlier case-crossover studies likely overestimated the relative risk for cellphone conversations while driving by implicitly assuming that driving during a control window was full time when it may have been only part time," said Young. "This false assumption makes it seem like cellphone conversation is a bigger crash risk than it really is."

In Young's new study, his research team used Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) data to track day-to-day driving of more than 400 drivers during a 100-day period. He then divided the days into pairs, with the first day representing the "control" day and the second day representing the "crash" day in the earlier studies. Overall, the team found little driving consistency in any given clock time period between the two days driving time on the control day was only about one-fourth of the driving time on the crash day, during any specific clock time period.

"This underestimation of the amount of driving in the control windows by nearly four times could reduce cellphone conversation time in t
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Contact: Julie O'Connor
julie.oconnor@wayne.edu
734-748-4207
Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research
Source:Eurekalert

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