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TIME, Boston Globe reports include new distracted driving analysis from WSU researcher Richard Young

December 14, 2011

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a nationwide ban on texting and calling behind the wheel. Many individual states and municipalities have their own prohibitions on cell-phone use while driving, but the new ban seeks to outlaw all non-emergency calls and texts by every driver in America. Coincidentally, on the same day, a new analysis of past data on distracted driving found that the crash risk may have been overstated. Researchers at Wayne State University's School of Medicine looked at two influential studies on distracted driving and car crashes, and concluded that the papers' methodology was problematic. The studies found that cell phone use by drivers raised the risk of a car crash by four times. The two studies recruited people who had been in a crash, and then used their cell phone billing records to compare their phone use during the time of the crash with their use during the same time period the week before. The previous-week comparison period was called the "control window." The problem, according to Dr. Richard Young, the lead author of the new analysis, published in Epidemiology, is that while the researchers asked people whether they had driven during the control window, they didn't ask how much they drove.