New York City cabbies have been banned from using cellphones for a decade — even the hands-free type, putting the city a step ahead of state law. But the stringent rules remain almost entirely unenforced, even amid research that shows drivers who talk on cellphones are four times as likely to cause a crash.
And as the city struggles to find more effective ways to confront the problem — call it an epidemic of gab — much of the burden to report cellphone abuse falls on passengers, who can feel powerless or intimidated.
The authorities issued just 232 summonses for cellphone use in yellow cabs during the first six months of this year, or one ticket for every 517,241 cab rides during that period, based on the city’s estimated ridership.
The New York Times reports today:
The Times may view this disregard for New York City's law a travesty, but the Big Apple is a perfect example of why banning cell phone usage behind the wheel is a bad idea and just plain unnecessary.
Sure, accidents happen because drivers were talking away on cell phones, but accidents can also happen because people sometimes get too preoccupied with the radio station, or their breakfast-to-go. But I don't see anyone trying to ban fast food drive-throughs. Besides, if New York City really wanted to be a "step ahead of state law," then city officials would ban driving behind the wheel for everyone- not just cab drivers. After all, they aren't the only drivers who carry passengers.
Anyway, it's no surprise that cab drivers have ignored the ban. The general populace likes to talk on the phone while driving and will continue to do so. The lesson here? Let's not single out cell phones when they aren't any more distracting than say, a breakfast burrito and a latté. It accomplishes nothing.
The Times completely misses the main issue. It seems as if they are the real victims of distraction by cell phones.
Reason's Jacob Sullum on New York's cell phone ban here.