Tag: highway fatalities

A Ban On “Walking While Wired”?

New York state senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) is crusading to ban pedestrians’ use of cellphones and other mobile devices while crossing the street. It’s for your own good, you must understand:

“When people are doing things that are detrimental to their own well being, then government should step in.”

The Daily Caller asked me to write an opinion piece about this proposal so I just did. Excerpt:

Phone use on the street has become near-ubiquitous in recent years, yet over nearly all that time — nationally as in Gotham — pedestrian death rates were falling steadily, just as highway fatalities fell steadily over the years in which “distracted driving” became a big concern.

In the first half of 2010, the national statistics showed a tiny upward blip (0.4 percent), occasioned by a relative handful of fatalities in a few states. Even a spokesman for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins, seems to agree it’s premature to jump to conclusions: “You don’t want to overreact to six months of data,” he told columnist Steve Chapman.

Like others who seek quasi-parental control over adults, Sen. Kruger tends to infantilize his charges. He told the Times: “We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross. You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”

This drew proper scorn from columnist Chapman: “Actually, you can perform all those functions and dance an Irish jig, even with text messages or rock music bombarding you.” That some ear bud devotees don’t take due caution is no reason to pretend they can’t.

C.S. Lewis, Lily Tomlin and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood all get walk-on parts as well.

Friday Podcast: ‘Drinking Ages and Highway Fatalities’

Does the policy of setting a national drinking age reduce highway fatalities?

In Friday’s Cato Daily Podcast, Jeffrey Miron, senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University, talks about the research he and student Elina Tetelbaum (now a Yale Law student) carried out on that question:

What we find is that the only area where there is any evidence for efficacy of the law are states that adopted a higher drinking on their own without any compulsion. For the states that the feds forced … to raise [their] drinking age, there is no evidence of a beneficial reduction in traffic fatalities… We conclude quite strongly that it’s only when a state chooses a higher drinking age on its own, it’s only when it decides its going to devote enforcement resources and when there’s public sentiment to support that, that you see those sorts of beneficial effects.

Miron and Tetelbaum offer a more detailed look at their findings in the Spring issue of Cato’s magazine Regulation, which will be released March 26.

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