FRIDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- More than 300,000 car accidents each year in the United States are the result of distracted driving due to texting, talking or otherwise operating a mobile device, yet driver use of these devices seems to be increasing, researchers warn.

Troubling statistics such as this one have prompted lawmakers in 39 states as well as Washington D.C. to pass laws regulating the use of cellphones and other "smart" devices while driving. A new study from Temple University revealed, however, that these laws and their penalties vary greatly in content and effectiveness.

The study, published in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, investigated distracted driving laws passed between 1992 and 2010, and found they varied greatly from state to state based on the following criteria:

  • Type of mobile device (cellphones, laptops, tablet computers)
  • Categories of drivers (by age or by driving permit type)
  • Types or locations of mobile device use.

In compiling and comparing this legislation, the researchers found that they could ultimately pinpoint the provisions within a given law that make it particularly effective. This could help reduce the number of distracted driving accidents and save lives, the study authors said.

"We know that distracted driving is dangerous, yet despite the diffusion of distracted driving laws, there is evidence that driver use of mobile devices is increasing," the study's lead author, Jennifer Ibrahim, an assistant professor of public health in the College of Health Professions and Social Work, said in a Temple University news release. "Our study is the first step toward understanding which laws really do reduce distracted driving, and thus can reduce related crashes and associated injuries and fatalities."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides statistics on distracted driving.