Feds Using Misleading Statistics To Make Case For National Ban On Cell Phone Use While Driving
I’ve written pretty extensively about the war on “distracted driving,” one of the latest “there oughta be a law” political fads. In recent years several states have passed laws outlawing the use of cell phones in cars, and the data from those laws so far is that they’re not really making our roads any safer (here’s a hint: despite the rise in electronics and other nominal “distractions” in our vehicles, roads are actually safer than they’ve been in decades).
Maybe distracted driving isn’t nearly the epidemic some claim?
But that’s not stopping the federal government from charging ahead with a call for a national ban on cell phone use in cars. Now, setting aside the argument over whether or not the law would do any good (or whether or not the federal government has constitutional standing to do any such thing), there are some real problems with the statistics the feds are using to make their case.
As Walter Olson points out, the federal government tends to associate traffic fatalities to cell phone use in the car based on some pretty loose grounds:
The feds insist that driver distraction is “linked” to 3,000 fatalities a year; even if you accept that number as accurate, most of the cases arise from distractions other than phones. But the number itself is suspect: the feds blame a crash on distraction if a cellphone is so much as “in the presence of the driver at the time of the crash.” There’s seldom any real effort to reconcile the supposed epidemic of phone distraction with the reality of accident statistics, which show per-mile highway fatalities continuing to fall to all-time lows.
In other words, if someone dies in a car accident and they have a cell on them it could be counted as a cell-phone related traffic fatality even if the driver wasn’t using the phone at the time of the accident.
Convenient if you’re trying to manufacture a distracted driving crisis as justification for sweeping national legislation.
This isn’t the only area where the government pulls this sort of a stunt. A friend of mine whose father died in Montana said that on the death certificate he received from the state it was noted that his father’s death was related to tobacco use. Now, granted, his father was a smoker, but his death didn’t have anything to do with tobacco use. But the state associated his death with tobacco use, no doubt to make a stronger case for more tax dollars spent on campaigns against tobacco use.
It’s like self-licking ice cream cones. The government creates a problem, and then advocates for accumulating to itself more funding and more power to solve the problem it created.Tags: big government, distracted driving, nanny statism