"Cabbies Stay on Their Phones Despite Ban." This is No Surprise.

The New York Times reports today:
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 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.

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  • ||

    "city officials would ban driving behind the wheel for everyone- not just cab drivers."

    ??

    Amanda--proofreading is important...

  • Stephen Smith||

    http://rationalitate.blogspot.com/2009/08/nyc-cabbies-talking-on-phones.html

  • ||

    much of the burden to report cellphone abuse falls on passengers, who can feel powerless or intimidated

    ...or they just don't give a shit. The ban was in place when I lived in NYC and I didn't even know about it, if I had I wouldn't have fucking ratted on them, and who gives a shit anyway? People who don't like talking to cabbies especially like it when they're on the phone (I like talking to cabbies, myself).

    At times, it is astounding how idiotic Times writers can be.

  • ||

    My new heroes.

  • Jordan||

    ...then city officials would ban driving behind the wheel for everyone- not just cab drivers.



    Ban driving, you say? I'm sure that's on Bloomberg's to-do list.

    At times, it is astounding how idiotic Times writers can be.



    No not really.

  • ||

    What font is this?

  • hmm||

    There's a simple solution in the private sector. Sign a waiver stating if you get in an accident your employer, insurance agent, or whom ever you are contracting with can access you cell phone records. You talking equals fired, uninsured, fucked.

    The personal responsibility to ensure your phone was off while driving, not being used by someone else, or any other excuse would be your problem.

    If the data is correct insurance companies could offer lower rates and employers could offer incentives. And Uncle Government never has to get involved.

    (of course that is if the money end of incentives and lower rates pans out)

  • ||

    People who don't like talking to cabbies especially like it when they're on the phone

    The shaggy quadroped speaks the truth. If the cabbie's on the phone, it decreases the chances that I'll be subjected to whatever passes for music in his country of origin. And then we all win.

  • SpongePaul||

    Can Cabbies actually drive any worse than they already do? ANd i will agree with them being on the phone cuts down on the convos in broken english that leave me feeling drained, or thier choice in music which is not a type i generally like! If the cab companies wanted them off the phone they could install jammers in the cars, hospitals plants other things can get them, so if its that big a fing problem, do that. but lets let the market decide, and darwinism!

  • ||

    It's also entirely possible that cabbies are using their cell phones to conduct business.

  • hmm||

    It's also entirely possible that cabbies are using their cell phones to conduct terrorist plots.

  • Craig||

    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.

    It's a lot harder to drive from the passenger side, though, and the mirrors have to be readjusted. Plus, if your spouse isn't paying attention, they won't step on the brakes when you ask them to.

    It's hard to believe that the New York state government would be heading this way with driving laws, but they've done other things that make equal sense I suppose.

  • ||

    Is it just me or is it only the Reason women who keep bashing the using-a-cell-phone-whilst-driving bans?

  • ||

    I stand corrected, although weighted by how recent the entries are changes it a little.

    Move along now, nothing to see here.

  • Kevin Carson||

    I hate cell phones and people who talk on them while driving (I've got one of those "Do you think you could drive better with that phone jammed up your ass?" bumper stickers), but it takes a special kind of liberal to think passing "a law" against something will make any difference.

    It's like the statists vaguely understand, on an intellectual level, that there are people who hold the law in contempt and feel no obligation to obey it. But then they try to "solve" the problem with another law saying "Obey all the laws." Example: Those stupid warning signs on the gas pump ("You could lose your license if you drive off without paying."). Ooooh! I have no compunction against stealing gas, but I'd be *too scared* to drive without a license!

  • Doctor Duck||

    Let's not single out cell phones when they aren't any more distracting than say, a breakfast burrito



    Anyone who believes that talking on a cell phone is no worse than talking on a burrito, needs to be squirted with a little salsa.

    Seriously, there's what, 8000 studies that show phoning, and especially texting, while driving is a bad idea, the equivalent of two stiff mojitos. Sure, you can be momentarily dist... whoa, did you see the buzzard? ...distracted by anything, but the cell phone uniquely can take you right out of the present context.

    Of course we're speaking of others here. You and I are much too in-control for it to be an issue.

  • ||

    Surely someone has brought this up before, but...

    How can the police be paying attention to the road while driving if they are using the two-way radio? I smell a big civil lawsuit!

  • ||

    Relative to the occupational licensing thread earler today, add taxi-drivers to the list of END LICENSURE NOW!

  • Neu Mejican||

    Dr. Duck,

    Indeed.

    The great thing about the research on the dangers of cell-phone technology is that it is soooo easy to do accurately. It is easy to triangulate time of crash with time of call.

    One of the interesting findings from these studies is the 4x's increase in risk among drivers at large compared to the 23 times increased risk for truck drivers. I suspect a large part of that is that truck drivers are safer to start with (as a group). I wonder if a similar study has been done with cab drivers.

    This posting seems to fall into the favorite red-herring game around h&r, which is to conflate - "enforcement is not a good idea/is impossible/this is a bad law" with "the problem the law addresses is not a real problem."

  • Paul||

    Washington put in their ban at the start of this year. I give my middle finger to the man by continuing to yak on my cell phone (sans hands free) whenever the eff I want. I see a lot of other drivers doing the same.

    I refuse to abide by the law and subsequently have never... ever purchased one of those totally ghey blue tooth sets subsequently supporting the rent-seeking cell hardware manufacturers who supported the ban.

    This posting seems to fall into the favorite red-herring game around h&r, which is to conflate - "enforcement is not a good idea/is impossible/this is a bad law" with "the problem the law addresses is not a real problem."

    Does it?

    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.

  • Paul||

    ??

    Amanda--proofreading is important...


    What... isn't that the obvious next step? To ban driving behind the wheel of a moving car? I'm sure Greg Nickels is getting right on this.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Neu - do you have a better solution? Regardless of the level of problem, if it isn't worth enforcing, then it isn't a problem, at least, within the context of the legal world.

  • Rhywun||

    The law is a pragmatic attempt to deal with an obvious danger. Anyone who lives here knows that cabbies spend their entire shift yakking away on the phone, all the while swerving and slamming on their brakes. So it fails the libertarian purity test--big deal. I highly doubt cabbies are going to turn to the other commonly cited distractions like putting on makeup and eating Happy Meals for 12 hours at a time.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    People have the right to do as they please until they harm others, Rhywun. What other Precautionary Principle laws do you believe in? The Drug War, maybe?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Paul,

    Does it?

    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.


    Yes, and this is one of the very passages where the conflation occurs. The research shows it to be a much bigger problem than these other distractions.

    The Angry Optimist | August 4, 2009, 7:47pm | #

    Neu - do you have a better solution? Regardless of the level of problem, if it isn't worth enforcing, then it isn't a problem, at least, within the context of the legal world.


    Better than what? Do you mean better than no law?

    To use an over the top analogy, no matter how hard you try, there will always be child rapists. No way to eliminate the behavior and no amount of enforcement will rid our society of the harm/risk. Might as well not have it be against the law. Or maybe we want to keep it on the books and enforce it when we catch people.

    So...my take. Write the laws so that it is clear that the behavior is subject to sanction, but write the law something like (back of the napkin quick here, it can be tweaked):

    Driving while using a mobile phone is prohibited and is subject to a fine of [define here________]. Drivers who cause a traffic accident while talking on the phone will be subject to additional fines a penalties [defined here__________].

    Enforcement would then be primarily at the scene of accidents, or when reckless driving draws the attention of police.

    Alternately, reckless driving is already against the law. Just amend the behaviors that count to include driving while on the cell phone.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    yes, you are right: reckless driving is already against the law...so why do we need another law?

    Do you feel this way about food? Children in the car? Loud music? Cigarettes?

    I mean, what level of distraction is it that makes something go from harmless to inherently reckless?

    I just do not support criminalizing another behavior because it pisses people off - and that's all this is.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    To further the point:

    If X percentage of murders "involve" alcohol...

    well, I think you see where I am going here.

  • Neu Mejican||

    TAO,

    I mean, what level of distraction is it that makes something go from harmless to inherently reckless?

    That can and has been studied scientifically. Cell phones are orders of magnitude more dangerous. The increased risk is similar to drunk driving.

    Now, I know many around here think that you shouldn't make driving drunk illegal either and should only apply sanction for harm after the fact, not risky behavior prior to the harm. I haven't been convinced by that logic.

  • Neu Mejican||

    TAO,

    I DO think that drunken murdering should be illegal =/;^)

  • Neu Mejican||

    yes, you are right: reckless driving is already against the law...so why do we need another law?

    In case I wasn't clear. We don't. We can just clarify (and publicize) that "reckless" behavior includes "recklessly" distracting yourself with a cell phone while driving.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    That can and has been studied scientifically.



    no, actually. There is no level of scientific study that can tell you what to criminalize. That is the province of philosophy. And like I said, you can give me "orders of magnitude" this-or-that, but that does not give us a principle by and around which people can shape their lives, at least one that is logical.

  • Neu Mejican||

    TAO,

    Sure, your criteria for what level of reckless is criminal is not a scientific question.

    However, it can be determined which behaviors are inherently reckless (create significantly increased risk of harm). That was what I meant.

    but that does not give us a principle by and around which people can shape their lives, at least one that is logical.

    Do you mean ethical?
    I am not sure logic is the controlling issue here...but the distinction gets messy real quick if we go down that road.

    If you are looking for a principle around which people can reorder their driving life, it seems these laws provide that. Something along the lines of "put your duty to maintain safe control of your vehicle ahead of your need to gab." Seems like an ethically sound idea.

  • Subcomandante Dave||

    While accidents due to cell phone usage are less damaging than drunk driving accidents, they're more frequent. An interesting angle is that while ~83% of people convicted of DUI are male, women talk more on cell phones while driving than men do.

    Women demand equality only when it suits them; if they want to cherry pick the best jobs via AA, they should be willing to accept more responsibility too. Far too men are in prison as compared to women for a society that claims to respect both genders equally.

    I propose that we "gender normalize" the legal system, and laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving are a great place to start. Let's make sure our prisons, legal system, legislation reflect diversity and gender parity. At the moment, women and the government are colluding to hide data which shows the seriousness of the problem:

    "NEW YORK - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gathered hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the hazards of drivers using cell phones, but withheld the information from the public in part out of fear of angering Congress, a newspaper reported Monday."

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gsKtAgd7nPCrDhq2AUGTK9fSdtiAD99IJGS00

    Look, the libertarian movement is a sausage party, ok? Only when women are held to the same standard as men, and start going to jail at the same rate that men do, will women become sympathetic to the concept of liberty. There is nothing libertarian about ignoring the rounding up of one gender while giving the other gender a free pass.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    well, logic does provide messiness, but that is part of the fun. Like I said, yes, driving while talking on a cell phone is not the smartest thing to do. But what is the percentage here? Of the millions of times a day people collectively drive and talk, what are there, 1,000 accidents attributable? 10,000?

    Regardless, there are people who can do both, and research certainly bears that out as well. Why punish them?

    And even more pressingly, do we really need:
    1. Another revenue generating ticketing infraction for the state?
    2. Another cause to be pulled over?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    SC Dave - the notion that we should start jailing people for infractions just to get them to be libertarians is fucking monstrous. Feel free to walk off of a bridge.

  • Doctor Duck||

    I just do not support criminalizing another behavior because it pisses people off - and that's all this is.



    As one who gets pissed off, it seems to me that the pissed-offed-ness comes not from seeing someone talking on a phone while driving, but from seeing, over and over, people off in another zone because they're minds are busy constructing the world surrounding the call, and not engaged in, you know, driving the fucking car. They're easy to spot, and their behavior is unlike any other kind of distracted driving. They really are dangerous.

    I know not all cell users are like this, and I'm not pissed at the ones who cope. But until we have a test to distinguish them, I'll continue to be pissed with the half who can't.

  • ||

    I DO think that drunken murdering should be illegal =/;^)

    But that's the most fun kind! Spoilsport.

  • Neu Mejican||

    But that's the most fun kind! Spoilsport.

    Yeah, but the fear of getting caught is half the thrill...

    Besides, isn't Angel Dust really a better murder high?

  • Rhywun||

    People have the right to do as they please until they harm others, Rhywun. What other Precautionary Principle laws do you believe in? The Drug War, maybe?



    The comparison is ludicrous. I'm not driving people around town when I'm doing drugs. The fact that distracted driving is demonstrably more dangerous than, y'know, paying attention to the road is good enough for me. It's not perfect--in an ideal world, the police would immediately swoop in the moment a cabbie was about to slam into into a telephone pole. But you may have noticed that the world isn't ideal.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    The fact that drinking is demonstrably more dangerous than, y'know, not drinking, when it comes to violent crimes, should be good enough for you, too.

  • Neu Mejican||

    TAO,

    Isn't "drunk and disorderly" a pretty common crime? Also drunk driving.

    Isn't that analogous? These laws are not about using a cell phone...they are about the related behaviors. These laws are about the specific behaviors that endanger others...whether you are talking about alcohol or cell phones.

  • Rhywun||

    The fact that drinking and driving is demonstrably more dangerous than, y'know, not drinking and driving



    FTFY

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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