Let me see if I have this straight: the Highway Loss Data Institute, which sounds like a legitimate institution, but is actually another sham insurance organization posing as an “Institute,” looked at accident rates before and after cell phone bans took effect in New York, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, and California.
Before I go any further, I should disclose that I have a long-standing problem with this “Institute.” Some of you may remember that in 2007 this same “Institute” manipulated accident data in order to push its agenda against “supersports motorcycles” by claiming that those motorcycle accidents “have the highest death rate” and tossed around statistics purportedly demonstrating why sportbikes should either be capped with a horsepower limit or banned altogether. Even more insulting were the quotes they listed from people whose titles sound impressive, such as “senior vice president for research.” When I looked at the actual data used in the report, the only “research” done was how to selectively state the data so it would appear to validate the claims of the “Institute.”
The 2007 from IIHS.ORG report further stated that riders of supersport motorcycles have a death rate that is “four times higher than the deaths of motorcyclists who ride other types of motorcycles.” Anne McCartt (the “senior vice president for research” at the HLDI) states, “[Supersport] bikes made up less than 10 percent of registered motorcycles in 2005 but accounted for over 25 percent of rider deaths.” There are more figures thrown around, such as, “Speeding and driver error were bigger factors in fatal crashes of supersport, sport, and unclad sportbikes compared with other classes of fatal motorcycle crashes.” The “report” is also filled with opinions intended to influence policymakers, such as, “Motorcyclists presumably buy supersports and sport bikes because they want to go fast, and manufacturers are happy to oblige.” This is of course is followed by the now-familiar insurance-industry mantra: “Short of banning supersport and sport motorcycles from public roadways, capping the speed of these street-legal racing machines at the factory might be one way to reduce their risk.”
So, now that we are all on the same page about this so-called “Institute,” let’s take a look at their latest “research” project and see what the real agenda is. First, the study found that month-to-month fluctuations in collision accident claims didn’t change before and after cell phone bans took effect. Nor did accident patterns change compared with those in nearby states without cell phone bans.
So, according to HLDI, banning hand-held devices isn’t reducing crashes, even though such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk,” said Adrian Lund, president of the HLDI. So, we all see where this is going: The “Institute” is preparing for an assault on all cell phone use while driving. How do we know this? First, because we have seen the “Institute,” use other studies to promote agendas and second, because there is no other explanation for the irresponsible reporting of this study. At first glance, it would appear that HLDI is not in favor of banning hand-held cell phone use while driving because such bans have not resulted in a decrease in accidents. But if you read further, it is clear that what they really want is a ban on all cell phone use while driving. Not just handheld devices, not just texting, but all devices.
Hmmm. As a Bay Area auto accident attorney, I am in favor of limiting behavior that causes automobile accidents. I am not, however, in favor of eliminating the freedoms this country has fought so hard to protect. Don’t forget, this same “Institute” wanted to eliminate sports bikes or cap their speed. Now they are poised to promote a ban on cell phone use-handheld or otherwise-while driving. What’s next, no eating while driving? No talking to passengers? No listening to music? Surely those behaviors could be distracting and could play some part in increasing the number of traffic accidents. And if HLDI’s track record is any indicator, it could use any available study and start a campaign to limit the behavior.
So this is what I’d like you to take away from this discussion: if the insurance industry wants to ban all cell phone use, come out and say it. As the insurance industry, not a trumped-up sham of an “Institute,” Present us with accurate data and let us make informed decisions. But don’t publicize irresponsible “studies” with a hidden agenda that may well do more harm than good.