[FoRK] Laws that ban texting while driving couldbecounterproductive

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sat Dec 24 12:56:17 PST 2011

On 10/2/11 12:42 PM, Bill Kearney wrote:
> http://connectedcommunities.us/showthread.php?t=46312
> Maryland's now made it a primary offense:
> New Texting Law Takes Effect; Ban On Texting And Driving Stronger With New Law
> Governor Announces Maryland Reaches Record Low Traffic Fatalities
> New Law Sends Drivers Message – Put the Phone Down
> (September 30, 2011) – Governor Martin O’Malley today announced Maryland reached a record low number of victims killed in 
> traffic collisions in 2010 – 496 fatalities. The previous low was in 2009 with 550 people lost, a nine percent decrease.
> “The efforts of law enforcement, educational outreach and better engineering to reduce fatalities on our roads have achieved 
> positive results,” said Governor O’Malley. “But for those who lost loved ones in traffic crashes last year, 496 victims are 
> still far too many. Our new law strengthening the texting while driving ban is another step toward continuing to reduce 
> traffic deaths.” 

At what point does the fact that a law was enacted on erroneous information become an impetus for repeal or adjustment?  Seldom, 
but that is wrong.
At $50 per micromort and 1.1 death per 100M VMT miles traveled, the lowest since 1949, is the current zero-risk fad justified?  
A good use of resources over much lower hanging fruit?  Ignorance, pandering, and insanity...

51% of fatalities involved people not wearing seatbelts, and 31% involved high alcohol levels.  So the fatality numbers are 
probably 2-3X what they should be.

> Increased risk of having a car crash attributed to cellphone use may have been overestimated in some past studies, a new 
> analysis suggests.
> In the new report, Richard A. Young of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit finds that two influential studies 
> on the subject might have overestimated the risk.
> The problem has to do with the studies' methods, according to Young. Both studies -- a 1997 study from Canada, and one done in 
> Australia <http://www.reuters.com/places/australia> in 2005 -- were "case-crossover" studies.
> The researchers recruited people who had been in a crash, and then used their billing records to compare their cellphone use 
> around the time of the crash with their cell use during the same time period the week before (called a "control window").
> But the issue with that, Young writes in the journal Epidemiology, is that people may not have been driving during that entire 
> control window.
> Such "part-time" driving, he says, would necessarily cut the odds of having a crash (and possibly reduce people's cell use) 
> during the control window -- and make it seem like cellphone use is a bigger crash risk than it is.
> The two studies in question asked people whether they had been driving during the control windows, but they did not account 
> for part-time driving, Young says.
> So for his study, Young used GPS data to track day-to-day driving consistency for 439 drivers over 100 days.
> He grouped the days into pairs: day one was akin to the "control" days used in the earlier studies, and day two was akin to 
> the "crash" day.
> Overall, Young found, there was little consistency between the two days when it came to driving time. When he looked at all 
> control windows where a person did some driving, the total amount of time on the road was about one-fourth of what it was 
> during the person's "crash" day.
> If that information were applied to the two earlier studies, Young estimates, the crash risk tied to cellphone use would have 
> been statistically insignificant.
> That's far lower than the studies' original conclusions: that cellphone use while driving raises the risk of crashing four-fold.
> And, Young says, the results might help explain why some other studies have not linked cell use to an increased crash risk.
> A researcher not involved in the work said that the two earlier studies may well have overstated the crash risk from using a 
> cellphone.

> In 2010, 32,885 people died in motor vehicle traffic
> crashes in the United States—the lowest number
> of fatalities since 1949 (30,246 fatalities in 1949) (see
> Figure 1).

In other words, the fatality per mile traveled is lower than it has ever been.

> Fatality and Injury Rates per 100 Million VMT
> 2009 2010 Change % Change
> Fatality Rate 1.15 1.10 -0.05 -4.3%
> Injury Rate 75 75 0 0.0%



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