[FoRK] Laws that ban texting while driving couldbecounter productive

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Mon Sep 19 13:41:25 PDT 2011

On 9/19/11 12:39 PM, Aaron Burt wrote:
> On Mon, Sep 19, 2011 at 10:05:22AM -0700, Stephen Williams wrote:
>> On 9/19/11 5:57 AM, Eugen Leitl wrote:
>>> This page lists those countries that have banned the use of a cell phone
>>> when driving unless used with some form of hands-free kit.
>> That's no ban,
> Ooohhhh...kaaayyyy...

No real ban on phone use, just a mode of use which is annoying anyway.  That so many people resist headsets (including my kids) is 
strange to me.

>> that is just making the assumption that tying up a
>> hand to hold it to your head impairs your driving.
> Which is not a bad assumption, even if it doesn't get to the root of the
> problem (attention management).  Handheld bans are also enforceable, unlike
> hands-free bans.  Pragmatism at work.

And recent reports are that at least 25% of young people (or everyone perhaps) ignore the handheld ban altogether.

>> It doesn't seem like there is strong evidence of a drastic increase
>> of risk overall except for anecdotal evidence about particularly
>> clueless drivers who are likely the ones causing stupid accidents in
>> other ways anyway.
> Where have you been hiding?  There's been studies for over a decade, many
> of which got mainstream news coverage.  STFW "cell phone impairment study".
> Most are driving-simulator studies, but crash statistics bear it out:
> http://www.bmj.com/content/331/7514/428.abstract

A cell phone impairment study, usually at universities and usually with inexperience student drivers, doesn't impress me since I 
know from personal vast experience that with training it is not a significant problem.  Plus, I don't see it.  If this were so 
dangerous, and with the fact that most drivers use their phones a lot, accident rates should have shot up with mobile phone use, 
again with flat rate messaging, and again with smart phones.  Yet accident rates (at least the fatal ones) have fallen significantly 
over the same time period.

> University of Utah has been doing a lot of interesting work on inattention

Red flag.  I don't trust their lack of bias.

> blindness and cellphones.  A recent study (negatively) correlated IB with
> working memory capacity.

The only working memory needed for driving is navigation, which is nearly always safely recoverable.

> So, yes, there are people who can handle it (just like there are people who
> can drive safely at>0.10% BAC) but good laws don't usually favor the
> exceptional cases.

Lowest common denominator laws suck.  Full Stop.
They are in fact unconstitutional in many forms, COPA et al.  There is a precedent, which I think applies broadly, that the 
government must use the least restrictive method, within reason, to achieve a legitimate purpose.  Anything more blunt that has 
collateral damage / restraint / affects innocent bystanders becomes gradually more exposed to constitutional challenge.  First 
Amendment cases get zero leeway, traffic laws get close to maximum leeway, but the principle is there.

I think they only barely pass constitutionality for traffic laws when there is no less invasive way to achieve significant goals.  
To the extent that widely feasible ways exist to achieve better results, or when those goals are non-existent (i.e. reducing risk 
when there is none), they become unconstitutional.

> I'd rather they just enforced it as an impaired-driving issue, but cops
> aren't allowed to be creative (thank goodness!)


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