Paternalism at NTSB

December 19th, 2011

Because they know better:

Her new tack also echoes a growing consensus among scientists that using phones and computers can be compulsive, both emotionally and physically, which helps explain why drivers may have trouble turning off their devices even if they want to. In effect, they are saying that the running joke about BlackBerrys as “CrackBerrys” is more serious than people think.

“Addiction to these devices is a very good way to think about it,” Ms. Hersman said in an interview. “It’s not unlike smoking. We have to get to a place where it’s not in vogue anymore, where people recognize it’s harmful and there’s a risk and it’s not worth it.”

She added: “If you can’t control your impulses, you need to lock your phone in the trunk.”

You know what’s distracting? Talking to a passenger in the seat next to you. You look at him or her. You make eye contact. You change the radio station when they put on a song you don’t like. Ban that!

From Walter Olson we see that government officials are overstating the danger of texting-while-driving to scare the crap out of people and encourage hasty legislation:

Columnist Mona Charen:

Is that true? No. In a detailed report on distracted driving issued earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that only 995 deaths resulted from distraction by cell phones in 2010. The 3,000-person figure refers to all distracted driving.

It’s true that the problem of driver distraction due to cellphones (and radios, and other passengers, and the need to fish quarters out of one’s pocket approaching a toll booth) is a real one worth the attention of (mostly local and state) road operators. It’s also true, as columnist Charen notes, that overall highway deaths have been dropping steadily, from 44,599 in 1990 to 32,885 in 2010, even though there are now more licensed drivers and cars on the road, and of course vastly more phones. That’s no “epidemic.”