A 2003 study showing that driving while talking on your mobile phone is as dangerous as driving under the influence inspired lawmakers across the land — including in California — to ban driving while gabbing (and now, texting).

But new research suggests that people who cruise-and-talk could actually be safer drivers.

The academics think people could actually be more cautious when they have a handset to their ear (you know, like when you're keeping an eye out for cops).

True? Don't know.

Here are some details:

Economists Saurabh Bhargava from the University of Chicago and Vikram Pathania from he London School of Economics looked at times when mobile calling increased — usually after 9 p.m. as a result of lower rates.

They focused on an 11-day span in California in 2005.

What they found was that, despite the rise in calling, there was no rise in crashing. They found similar data in other states.

Here's a thought, though: Maybe, just maybe, people don't drive as much after 9 p.m. either? Possibly?

In any case, the research should make us think twice before equating chatty Cathy with drunk Darryl.


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