A Big Problem With Government

Humans have a natural desire  to innovate and exercise creativity.  Unfortunately, in government bureaucracies, the only place where this creativity is channeled is into inventing new ways to expand one's or one's agency's power.  Which is why life as a libertarian seems to be a constant whack-a-mole game against stupid regulatory proposals like banning even hands-free cell phones from cars.

  • me

    True on a number of levels. That said, my understanding is that talking to a passenger, engaging in a phone call on a hands free device and using one hand to talk on a real phone are equally distracting.

    However, prescriptive traffic enforcement (speed limits, cell phones) doesn't really work - by banning and penalizing safe practices and adding a heavy cost of enforcement while missing some unsafe practices (driving while you're too tired or feeling a bit sick, maybe?), it reduces freedoms without much of a benefit.

    What would work would be stronger penalities for parties-at-fault (probably needs better evidence-generation on highways at least), a solid and easily available system of cheap alternative transportation (oh, I am not feeling so well. I'll just take a cab or bus home and back to work tomorrow, because it's not a big deal or hassle - we're far from this, unfortunately) and improvements in road conditions (like, say, lighting, ensuring clean angles of view and avoiding intersecting traffic as much as possible).

    Unfortunately, our bureaucrats lack a lot of the smarts needed to create useful solutions and are prone to go with push-button approaches (stronger speed enforcement! bans on doing anything! mandatory helmet laws!).

  • greg

    can they explain exactly how the hell that would be enforced? If I'm seen talking (moving my lips), do I get pulled over now?

  • Anon

    If you are going to ban regular cell phones, it only makes sense to also ban hands-free. Study after study shows it isn't holding the cell phone that's the problem, it is carrying on a conversation with someone who is not in the car with you ... and doesn't pause when you have to pay attention.

    That said, I'm against banning either. Rather see a law that penalizes anyone in an accident while using any of these devices.

  • Anon

    greg,

    Good point. That's another problem. But if you are in an accident, the other party could subpoena your phone records, or it could just be the law you have to show whether you were on the phone, etc.

  • John A

    Just wondering, were "factory-installed" hands-free devices exempted lest such as "OnStar" be inadvertently banned?

    For the most part, this is just silly: perhaps text-messaging should be banned, but oral communications? Should the driver have a lot of disposable gags for passengers as well? Radios, CD players, CB radios...

  • caseyboy

    Nanny, how I love ya, how I love ya, my dear old Nanny (state).

    They say texting while driving is as dangerous and drinking and driving. I say let em text and let me drink so I have an even chance.

  • Ted Rado

    We all make judgements as to what is acceptably safe. In Germany, they put lit candles on Christmas trees.

    If one injures another person due to negligence, they are liable. Why do we need a reg or law for each and every possible way that this can happen?

    Back in the 30's, there were a minimum of rules and laws and society did fine. Now we have zillions of pages of regs and rules and we are all screwed up. Which arrangemnt is better?

  • Matt

    Anon,

    If the driver isnt paying enough attention to the the road despite the conversation with a passenger in the car to notice trouble ahead, what makes you think the passenger will notice and stop talking. There are a lot of things that can cause a distracted driver. Half of them are entirely inside the drivers head. The idea that the government can prevent or even reduce accidents due to distracted drivers by such bans is absurd.

    Even if such a ban could be enforced in an effective way, there are plausable situations where the ban itself could end up being as much or more of a distraction to the driver than the phone would be. For example, a man is driving home in heavy, but not slow interstate traffic, in the middle lane where he can't easily pull over. He hears a news report on the radio indicating some kind of trouble on his block, but he missed the complete address. Worry for his families safty could become much more of a distraction than picking up the cellphone and making sure his family is safe.

  • Matt

    John,

    For built in systems like On-Star, they would probably require built in controls to prevent the service from being used while the car is in motion.

    There are similar controls on after market GPS navigation systems, although they are currently volentary in that the controls can by bypassed by the user.

    My Garmin which is several years old, has a y/n prompt that comes up when the device is turned on asking if you are willing to be subjected to such controls. If you say yes, or do not respond before the prompt times out, the unit won't respond to any input while the vehicle is in motion.

  • A fiend

    Just require a knife coming out of the steering wheel aimed at the drivers chest. Everyone would pay attention!

  • James H

    I think that the next step is to require that cars be fitted with the "cones of silence" from Get Smart so that the driver is isolated from these noises. I guess sirens could be piped in for emergency vehicles.

    I thought that the level of distraction is about the same for hands-free talking and a passenger talking to the driver. So next we're banning talking to passengers? What about talk radio?

  • Mark

    The real problem is that everything other than the steering wheel and front window are a distraction which can cause an accident. I remember in my 20's I got into an accident because I was fiddling with my radio. And radio accidents far outnumber cell phone accidents.

    Your GPS is also a distraction, so is the trip computer on your car - oh look my instantaneous mileage is 46. -> crash. So is your passenger, so is that soda or coffee you are drinking, burger you are eating, makeup you are applying (or face shaving for guys) ...

    So why is the cell phone the bogey man? All these things should be banned, if we want to be consistent.

    It is interesting that I just read that our injury/death rate due to driving is now the same as 1948 (and they don't take population growth into account) are we not at the point where any more safety requirements actually provides significantly decreasing returns.

  • Goober

    punish distracted driving, no matter what causes it. Banning distractions will never work, is unenforceable, and is a further example of catering to the lowest common denominator instead of trusting citizens to make responsible choices.

    There are driving situations where i talk on the phone no problem. Out of town, on the interstate, that sort of thing. The phone is not enough of a distraction to be unsafe in those conditions. There are places where i just let it go to voicemail, because even the mild distraction of the phone is too much. The problem is that we've bred an entire generation of people who rely on the government to help them make good decisions, instead of raising them to be smart on their own. I would never do anything that would endanger my family while I'm driving. Sometimes, that means driving less than the speed limit. Sometimes, 10 over is perfectly safe. I don't understand why everyone can't be similarly rational about choices effecting their safety - if only we would teach them about personal responsibility...

  • insider

    While we are at it, let's legalize drunk driving. Lots of people drive better after having a few drinks. Why should they be penalized?