Hang up and drive and other myths

Posted in Liberty at 15:53 by RjZ

Most likely you’ve seen the bumper stickers: “Hang up and drive!” It’s such a common sentiment that several states (and nations) have laws banning individuals from operating a cellphone while driving. Typical nanny-state attitude; control what people do and they won’t hurt themselves. It’s also entirely inconsistent. We don’t ban smoking in cars, even though a dropped cigarette is an accident waiting to happen. We don’t ban radios or iPods although fiddling with them has gotten me into some close calls (and I am sure I am not alone). We don’t ban screaming children in the back seat or puppies in the front.

Worse still, while many think cellphones contribute to accidents, new evidence doesn’t bear this out. According to the New York Times, a University of Berkeley study shows no increase in accidents in spite of the great increase in cell phone use.

I saw another bumper sticker once: “I drive like you do.” We all make mistakes out there. It’s your responsibility to drive carefully and pay attention to those who are not. Let’s hope everyone else does when you’re the one not paying attention.


  1. Tim R. said,

    September 8, 2007 at 20:17


    Garbage in, garbage out. I just read the study quickly online at:


    but I have to admit I thought that the design of the experiment didn’t really do much for me. They didn’t really find that cell phone didn’t cause accidents–they simply found that their prediction that accidents should rise when the switchover from peak to off-peak minutes occur was wrong. They attempted to correct for other factors, but gee, it seems fairly specious to me to think that you can correct for decreased traffic volume at that time, the fact that many cell phone users responsible for the off-peak spike are actually at home, etc. Tell me: who watches the clock, waiting for the off peak hours, before making a phone call while driving?

    I’m not sure such reasoning refutes other studies that show delayed reaction times in driving simulators that are similar to the delayed reaction times to driving under the influence of alcohol. That seems to me to be a much better designed and more pertinent study than a statistical analysis of accident data based on some pretty questionable arguments about patterns of cell phone use.

    As Benjamin Disreali once put it, “There are three kinds of lies in the world: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

  2. RjZ said,

    September 9, 2007 at 7:36

    As reported elsewhere on this article (and on my link) the number of accidents hasn’t seriously increased as the number of cellphones has…that’s just a correlation, but that’s all the side that says we should drive while talking on the phone has too. I think the fact is that talking on cellphone, while potentially dangerous and impairing as alcolhol, is no more dangerous that playing with the radio, the iPod, your pet, your kids, or smoking. We don’t ban all those things either. Driver Emptor.

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