Fewer people have died on California’s roads and highways since a ban on drivers using hand-held cellphones took effect in July 2008, according to a study.

The state Office of Traffic Safety on Monday reported the number of deaths of drivers who were using hand-held cellphones dropped 47 percent in the two years after the ban compared to the number of similar deaths during the two years before the ban.

The study, commissioned by OTS and conducted by UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center also found that overall traffic deaths fell 22 percent after the ban.

“These results suggest that the law banning hand-held cell phone use while driving had a positive impact on reducing traffic fatalities and injuries,” said David Ragland, director of the UC center.

In reporting the study’s results, OTS also noted in a statement that:

–A survey commissioned last summer by OTS found 40 percent of drivers reported they talk less, on either hand-held or hands-free devices, since the law took effect.

–The survey also found 62 percent of respondents said texting and talking on cellphones were the biggest safety concerns on California roads and 84 percent considered texting and talking on cellphones were the most most serious distractions while driving.

–DMV stats showed that in 2011 there were 460,487 hand-held cellphone convictions statewide — 22 percent more than the 361,260 convictions in 2010 and 52 percent more than the 301,833 in 2009.

–Last spring, an OTS  observational survey showed 9 percent of drivers were talking or texting while driving, “representing hundreds of thousands of drivers at any given time. Research has shown that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.”


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