Government Gets It Wrong. Again.

Evil phone attacking innocent but distracted motorist

A new study is out reporting that laws forbidding cell phone use, both texting and calling, while driving do not have a significant impact on the number of car accidents. Instead, it’s distractions, not just cell phones, that kill.

In the Wall Street Journal:

Laws that forbid motorists from using hand-held phones or texting while driving don’t appear to result in a significant decrease in vehicle crashes, according to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute expected to be released Friday.The study, expected to be released at a conference in Washington, D.C., Friday, comes amid stepped-up efforts by federal highway-safety regulators to ban texting while driving and curb other forms of driver distraction. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood earlier this week announced rules to forbid commercial truck and bus drivers from text messaging while driving. Mr. LaHood has said he would ban all texting while driving if he could.

But the government and do-gooders who live by restricting others will not give up so easily.

The Transportation Department won’t be troubled with little things like facts:

…it is irresponsible to suggest that laws banning cell phone use while driving have zero effect on the number of crashes on our nation’s roadways. A University of Utah study shows that using a cell phone while driving can be just as dangerous and deadly as driving drunk. We know that by enacting and enforcing tough laws, states have reduced the number of crashes leading to injuries and fatalities.

In that statement they claim one substantiated claim, that the University of Utah found cell phone driving is as bad as drunk driving, and one unsubstantiated claim phrased in such as way as to scoff at substantiation, “We know that by enacting and enforcing tough laws, states have reduced the number of crashes leading to injuries and fatalities.”

That’s pretty much the same as leading an argument with “everybody knows…”, appealing to common sense without factual basis.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, which sponsored this new study, is financed by the insurance industry. This will lend credence to the study as insurance companies need to mitigate risk in order to maximize profit, and this report claims there is much less risk than previously assumed.

The facts (WSJ):

The HLDI studied data on monthly collision claims in four states that banned the use of hand-held phones by motorists before and after the bans went into effect. The HLDI also compared collision data from states that enacted bans on driving while texting or phoning to accident claims in states that didn’t enact such bans.

In New York, HLDI said its researchers found that collision claims decreased compared to other states, but the decrease began before the state’s ban on hand-held phoning took effect.

The HLDI data don’t show whether drivers involved in accidents were using cellphones at the time. But the HLDI said in a statement “reductions in observed phone use following bans are so substantial and estimated effects of phone use on crash risk are so large that reductions in aggregate crashes would be expected.”

So what are we left with? Restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving which do not affect the number of accidents.

Sounds like and apology and lifting of the regulations is in order.

Likelihood of this occuring? Nil.

Story in CNET.

Story in the Wall Street Journal.

2 thoughts on “Government Gets It Wrong. Again.”

  1. Laws which forbid (i.e. result in traffic tickets for) texting while driving enable insurance companies to raise their rates for violators. If this doesn't actually increase the risk of an accident, it's a windfall for the companies.

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