Auto accidents are the number 1 cause of death among teenagers; and they’re a major killer among Americans of any age. There are over 6 million auto accidents in the US each year, in which almost 3 million people are injured and about 42 thousand are killed. Over 100 people die each day in US automotive accidents. So it’s a pretty big problem; and people are always trying to find new ways to help solve that problem.
According to the most widely cited study, of those 42,000 unfortunate people who die each year in crashes, 2,600 of them were involved in an accident where at least one driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash. That’s 6% of all fatal accidents. That doesn’t mean that the cell phone was the cause of the accident either, or that everyone who died in the crash was using a cell phone, it only means that one of the drivers involved was on a cell phone. It certainly doesn’t seem like overwhelming evidence. Still, the National Safety Council (NSC) has decided to call for a ban on any driver using a cell phone in any way at any place in the country. Including the hands-free devices that are exempt in several states. What are their reasons?
I’ll go with the most widely cited study, conducted by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, which says that as many as 6% of all vehicle crashes in the US involve a driver using a cell phone. That’s a very small percentage, and it’s only a correlation, it says nothing about causation. To want to ban all cell phone use based on that 6% correlation is beyond absurd, and yet the NSC is going all out spending a good deal of money trying to spread this idea. Why? What could possibly be their motivation?
Well, money, obviously. Most of the members of, and contributors to, the National Safety Council are associated with insurance companies. That’s right, the NSC is basically an arm of the insurance lobby. Surprise! If they succeed in getting this nationwide ban passed, it would mean that insurance companies would be able to deny claims based on the fact that a cellphone may have been in use. That would have a huge effect on their bottom line.
The fact is, a ban on cell phones will not help the masses, it’ll only help the insurance companies. If they really cared about decreasing automotive accidents, they’d be setting up an incentive system that rewards good drivers and punishes bad drivers. Distracted driving is a major player in accidents, and there are thousands of things that can distract a driver… cell phones being only one of them. Cell phones are just the newest scapegoat in the fight against distracted driving. When car radios first came out, the same insurance lobby tried the same ban on radios. But cell phones are a part of our lives now, a ban on them is as nonsensical as a ban on listening to the radio while driving.
And no one is trying to understand the unseen effects of a ban on all cell phone use while driving. What happens when a law-abiding driver needs to take an urgent call, pulls over, and then has to re-merge into traffic. Those actions are both infinitely more dangerous on a highway than talking on a cell phone. This is a much more complicated issue than the NSC would have you believe. Don’t fall for it, they’re not looking out for your best interests.