We should examine proposed rules for motorists based on three principles: First, if people comply with the rule, does empirical evidence show it will increase safety? Second, does the evidence indicate that motorists will comply with the rule? Third, does the rule infringe upon personal liberties, and could enforcement be subject to abuse?
Cellphone bans fail in every way.
An MIT study shows that cellphone users are poor drivers regardless of cellphone use (“Cellphones’ role in crashes doubted: Study says drivers, not cellphones, pose the accident risk,” Business, Aug. 27). Correlation is mistaken for causation. And there is no evidence that bans actually reduce cellphone use. They could reduce safety by causing motorists to conceal their phones.
Finally, allowing police to cite motorists who are not actually violating any rules of the road is an unacceptable infringement on civil liberties that is ripe for abuse. The recent case of the TSA’s racial profiling at Logan Airport shows the potential for well-intentioned rules to result in discriminatory practices. And revenue-based enforcement practices are widespread in many jurisdictions.
Distracted driving is a complicated problem that involves far more than cellphones. It cannot simply be legislated away. Enforcement of generic distracted driving laws is the best medicine.
The writer is an activist with the Massachusetts chapter of the National Motorists Association.