Turns Out Bad Drivers Drive Badly Even Without Cellphones

Ban-happy politicians, who want to look tough on whatever inconsequential hot-button issue is in the news, have been passing laws about phones and driving for years now: no talking without a headset, no texting, no kaleidoscopes. So it was a big surprise when the auto insurance industry itself figured out that these bans had absolutely no effect on accidents; oh, except that they actually caused slightly more crashes. It was even more perplexing when it came out that even driving while talking on the phone with a hands-free phone made people’s reaction time twice as slow as drunk drivers‘, and even slower than drivers high on pot. Since cell-phone use has skyrocketed over the past decade, the data essentially showed that we have millions more “drunk drivers”, yet no more accidents to show for it.


Some people just don't care. Photo by Marcelo Braga.


This, of course, sent many short-sighted policy makers scratching their heads: “what do you mean our easy fix didn’t work? We can legislate whatever behavior we want, and clearly, cell phones are the root of all driving evil! And drinking.” Well science has finally given us the answer: a new study shows that cell-phone drivers just don’t care about driving safely. Cell phones are banned? That’s ok, they’ll eat, or shave, put on makeup, read the paper, or whatever isn’t banned. If they even care about the bans in the first place, since they’re pretty hard to enforce.

But the people that do care about safety, they voluntarily ban their own cell phone and makeup use while driving, and focus on the road. So once again — along with drug use, smoking, trans fats bans and others — we have an issue about which people are in need of education, but instead of doing that, politicians turn to legislation under the misguided belief that good behavior can be legislated via morality laws. This, in spite of centuries of history showing that the only thing that works is education, and that consequently, the morality laws only work in as far as they educate people — but they serve as no deterrent for those who, once educated, simply don’t care. For the rest, they just make that education come with a civil fine or criminal price tag. And for the ones that don’t care, the best thing we can do to prevent them getting on the road is to bring self-driving cars to the market as soon as possible.

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From Science, via Slashdot


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