At the New York Times debate blog, Senior Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward mixes it up with a traffic expert, a couple of psychologists, and the head of the National Safety Council on driving while dialing, texting, chatting, or otherwise using a cellular device.
We humans are also notably bad at comparing concentrated costs with diffuse benefits. It’s easy to tally up the costs of dialing while driving — there are accident reports and mortality figures. But it’s much harder to add up all the benefits.
Think of every carpool disaster averted, grocery list amended, or stress-relieving traffic update made possible by the use of cellphones in cars. Think of every kid who got through to his mom, every long-distance relationship maintained, every roadtrip rescued. True, these aren’t matters of life and death, but billions of tiny gains in happiness and reductions in stress are too often overlooked in public policy debates.