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Objective: To determine whether substantial short term declines in drivers' use of handheld cell phones, after a state ban, were sustained one year later.
Design: Drivers' daytime handheld cell phone use was observed in four New York communities and two Connecticut communities. Observations were conducted one month before the ban, shortly after, and 16 months after. Driver gender, estimated age, and vehicle type were recorded for phone users and a sample of motorists.
Intervention: Effective 1 November 2001, New York became the only state in the United States to ban drivers' handheld cell phone use. Connecticut is an adjacent state without such a law.
Sample: 50 033 drivers in New York, 28 307 drivers in Connecticut.
Outcome measures: Drivers' handheld cell phone use rates in New York and Connecticut and rates by driver characteristics.
Results: Overall use rates in Connecticut did not change. Overall use in New York declined from 2.3% pre-law to 1.1% shortly after (p<0.05). One year later, use was 2.1%, higher than immediately post-law (p<0.05) and not significantly different from pre-law. Initial declines in use followed by longer term increases were observed for males and females, drivers younger than 60, and car and van drivers; use patterns varied among the four communities. Publicity declined after the law's implementation. No targeted enforcement efforts were evident. Cell phone citations issued during the first 15 months represented 2% of all traffic citations.
Conclusions: Vigorous enforcement campaigns accompanied by publicity appear necessary to achieve longer term compliance with bans on drivers' cell phone use.