13 September 2013

Everything You Know Is Wrong: Celldriving Is Not Dangerous

Everybody knows that talking on a cell phone while driving is unsafe, right?  It's just common sense.  Everybody knows it.  

You then have to ask how "everbody" comes to know something?  It's on the nightly news and in the papers and legislators are urged to do something about it; pass a law.  Eleven out of the fifty United States have ourlawed cell use while driving.  Pundits and commentators and activists raise our awareness.

But if driving and cellphoning is so dangerous, why have traffic accidents and fatalities fallen as cell phone usage zoomed?

This was an obvious question not addressed by over one hundred previous studies.  Then a couple of wonks from Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics got together to answer that question.   V.S. Pathania and S. Bhargava, in their new study, show that there is no causal link between fatal crashes and gabbing via handheld communicators while operating a motor vehicle.

You can read the whole thing in the American Economic Journal ( Aug. 1, 2013).  It's titled, "Driving under the (Cellular) Influence."  But why would you want to.  I actually tried to read it, but gave up after ten minutes and just went to the summary

I've often wondered why cops don't get distracted while driving and talking on the radio with the dispatcher.   

Texting may be another matter.  Or reading the newspaper while on the freeway.  I saw a man doing that, once.  Rush Limbaugh said he actually saw a woman trying to put on pantyhose while driving on a California throughway.  But then she might just have been creeping along at three MPH.

What's the strangest thing you've ever seen a driver in another car doing while in motion?

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