Cell phone use has grown higher in among teenage drivers in the US state of North Carolina after a mobile phone ban on young drivers was enacted, according to a new study.
The study, conducted in two parts, shows that the use of cell phones among teenage drivers has increased despite the fact that young drivers and their parents strongly support the restrictions.
It even revealed that parents and teens believed that the ban on hand-held and hands-free phone use was not being enforced.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that North Carolina's law was not reducing the use of mobile phones among teen drivers.
For their study, the researchers carried out telephone surveys of teens and their parents in the first evaluation of a cellular phone law for drivers younger than age 18, which is a part of the State's graduated licensing system.
The researchers point out that 11 per cent of teen drivers were observed using cellular phones as they left school in the afternoon, just one-two months prior to the imposition of the ban on December 1, 2006.
However, five months after the ban took effect, almost 12 per cent of teen drivers were observed using phones, with most drivers using hand-helds.
While nine per cent were holding phones to their ears, less than one per cent had hands-free devices. Two percent were observed dialling or texting.
The researchers said that cellphone use remained steady at about 13 per cent at comparison sites in South Carolina, where teen driver cellphone use was not restricted.
"Most young drivers comply with graduated licensing restrictions such as limits on nighttime driving and passengers, even when enforcement is low," said Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research and an author of the study.
"The hope in North Carolina was that the same would hold true for cellphone use, but this wasn't the case. Teen drivers' cellphone use actually increased a little. Parents play a big role in compliance with graduated licensing rules. Limiting phone use may be tougher for them since many want their teens to carry phones," McCartt added.
Upon conducting a survey after the cellphone restrictions had taken effect, the researchers found that teenage drivers were more likely than parents to say they knew about the ban.
While 39 per cent of the parents surveyed reported being aware of the law, 64 per cent of teen drivers knew about it.
Support for the ban was greater among parents, with 95 per cent of them supporting the law as compared to 74 per cent teens.
While 88 per cent parents said that they restrict their teenage drivers' cellphone use, only 66 per cent of teenagers reported such parental limits.
About 50 per cent of the teenagers surveyed said that they had used their phones on the day prior to the interview, after the law took effect.
Most parents and teen drivers agreed that police officers were not enforcing the law properly.
Seventy-one percent of teens and 60 percent of parents were of the opinion that enforcement was rare or nonexistent, while only 22 per cent of teens and 13 per cent of parents believed the law was being enforced fairly often or a lot.
"Cellphone bans for teen drivers are difficult to enforce. Drivers with phones to their ears aren't hard to spot, but it's nearly impossible for police officers to see hands-free devices or correctly guess how old drivers are," McCartt notes.
In the absence of some better way to enforce them, "cellphone bans for teenage drivers aren't effective, based on what we saw in North Carolina," McCartt adds.
The researcher also revealed that cellphone use was significantly higher among girls than among boys in both North Carolina and South Carolina, when teens drove alone in vehicles rather than with friends.