Will the New Cell Phone Laws Increase Danger on the Road?

New laws requiring that cell phone use in moving vehicles be handsfree are going into effect in many states this week. For instance, Washington and California. In California:

The law requires use of a hands-free device by drivers over 18 except in a medical or traffic emergency. Text-messaging is not specifically banned for adults, but the California Highway Patrol said they can be cited for negligence under existing laws.
A second law that took effect Tuesday bars drivers under age 18 from using a wireless telephone, pager, laptop or any other electronic communication or mobile service device while driving. The ban extends to hands-free usage and text-messaging.

All these laws make me wonder whether our fine legislators have any kind of clue at all.
If it is really about holding something in your hand shouldn’t the thousands of espresso shops be required to provide your drink in a hands free cup?
The problem, though, is not just that you are holding something in your hand. It is that you are carrying on a conversation. This creates a bit of a diversionary problem when your conversation partner is in the car. It is magnified when they are on the other end of the phone. You have to focus attention both on what you are say and on understanding what the other person is saying which will often include creating a mental image of their facial expressions and body language. Neither your driving or your conversation partner get full attention.
You don’t agree? Do the experiment yourself. Go do an honest comparison of your focus while driving: a) driving with no distractions; b) driving with music playing; c) driving while listening to your favorite talk radio show; d) driving while talking to some in the front seat; e) driving while talking to someone in the back seat and f) driving while talking to some one via a cellphone. Make sure the conversations are realistic. I’d be interested in your results.
Forcing folks to go hands-free also compounds the problem for other drivers. When talkers were holding their phones it was relatively easy to attribute their poor driving to cell phone use as opposed to, say, being drunk. You would probably compensate a little differently and probably did not call 911.
Now that the talkers are being forced to speakerphones and earpieces it will not be easy, if even possible, to determine whether the fool weaving back and forth or crawling along in the left lane is cell phone disabled or something worse.
If you are driving you really should not be talking on your phone at the same time. Pull over.

I encourage everyone to call 911 anytime they see reckless or impeding traffic. No excuses for why it is happening.

Quote of the Day

Yeah, we’re much better here. The government only rapes rather than kills you.
Warren Meyer, Coyote Blog, 12/10/2006

Read the rest to find out how milk producers are making millions off the back of American consumers.

Also see Battlepanda.

Update 12/11: From Kip at A Stitch in Haste:

“Crushing a competitor” by outcompeting him is one thing. Crushing him by outpoliticking him is something entirely different and entirely despicable.
So the next time you hear a baby crying for milk — or a liberal crying about milk prices, or prices in general, or income and poverty in America — rest assured that Congress is “doing something” about it.
Just don’t think too much about what that “something” actually is.

Why Maine bureaucrats Don’t Want Santa’s Butt To Be Sold

Main bureaucrats will not allow this beer to be sold:

But not because it exceeds alcohol content limits or some other more appropriate reason.* Nope, aschcroft and gonzalez would be proud of them:

But the state says it’s within its rights. The label with Santa might appeal to children, said Maine State Police Lt. Patrick Fleming.

Gosh, do they really allow children to buy alcoholic beverages in Maine?
Via Pharyngula.
*Regular readers know that the Modulator staff believe that the only legitimate reason to prohibit sale of a product might be that the product contained contaminants like mercury, e coli, etc. Otherwise the state has no business interfering in economic transactions between consenting adults.

Why You Should Not Trust Regulatory Agencies to Protect You

Consider that an agency, say the federal trade commission, has approved the labeling that a company uses on its products. The average citizen would expect that use of this labeling implies that the product does what the labeling implies and that the product is safe for them to use.

Unfortunately, this is not a good expectation :

The lawsuit, involving 1.1 million people who bought “light” cigarettes in Illinois, claimed Philip Morris knew when it introduced such cigarettes in 1971 that they were no healthier than regular cigarettes. But the company hid that information and the fact that light cigarettes actually had a more toxic form of tar, the suit claimed.

A Madison County judge ruled in favor of the smokers in March 2003, saying the company misled customers into believing they were buying a less harmful cigarette.

But the state high court overturned that ruling, saying that, because the Federal Trade Commission allowed companies to characterize their cigarettes as “light” and “low tar,” Philip Morris could not be held liable under state law even if the terms it used could be found false or misleading.

Read that last paragraph again. Philip Morris lied to the public, misled people into buying an ostensibly safer cigarette. The federal trade commission blessed their labeling and as a result the victims have no legal recourse against this fraudulent behavior.

Not only do they have no recourse but the entity that is supposed to protect them, the citizens, from fraudulent behavior was apparently in bed with the perpetrator.

Perhaps the ftc was fooled by Philip Morris. That’s fine, not everyone is perfect. Nevertheless, it is not acceptable that citizens can not sue just because some federal administrative agency has said something is ok.

But then, is that not a big reason companies seek out regulation? To protect themselves from accountability. All they have to do is meet the minimum standards enshrined in the regulatory rules for their industry. Rules that they often have helped write. Once they meet the rules they are protected from suit and Joe and Mary Citizen are screwed.

Joe and Mary need recourse. It is clear that agencies like the ftc and their supporting legislation are not providing the deserved protection. Failing on this account what justification is left for their existence.

The money spent on the myriad of federal, state and local regulatory agencies might be better spent by investing in a legal system that provides easy and timely access to citizens. A legal system that acts under the rule of law not the rule of legislation or administrative rule making. A system that can punish fraud by providing full restitution to victims.

Better yet the money should be returned to the tax payers. Isn’t that the appropriate option when the product you have bought is broken and the vendor can not provide a working replacement.