Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Carrying stuff carefully

"Proposal bans texting by haz-mat truck drivers" is the headline. That is to say, currently, texting while hazmat driving is just fine.

Of course, laws against texting while driving are hard to enforce, at least within existing methods. So this won't suddenly fix the problem, though it's going in the right direction.

If and when you solve the problem of texting (US DOT's big focus at the moment), there's still the issue of talking on the phone. Lots of state legislatures thought they found a great compromise by requiring hands-free operation. Problem is the research so far says that's barely different than holding the phone.

The answers are not good. We're talking probably a couple thousand deaths a year. That status quo is the 'easy' option policy wise, while telling people they can't talk and drive is the hard one. You might think it should go the other way. In any case, a few economists have already been working this one for years trying to quantify the economic loss if you banned talking and driving. It'll be interesting to see to what extent each side of the debate does or doesn't embrace a numeric cost-benefit frame on the issue.


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