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The cause of traffic fatalities is driving

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Good post by Philip Cohen on the absurd misdirection and dubious statistics surrounding the texting-while-driving panic. The parallel with making the famous crying Indian commercial about littering, rather than pollution/deforestation is apt. Driving, of course, is what’s deadly here, and texting-while-driving, like anything that takes your focus away from such a dangerous, high-stakes activity, is obviously a terrible idea, the effort to focus on this one distracting activity misdiagnoses the fundamental problem. A serious approach to reducing traffic fatalities would recognize that humans being what they are, there are real limits to the use of social norms and laws to make humans better driving machines (and for many reasons not immediately solvable via public policy, modern life isn’t really geared toward only driving cars when you’re well-rested, not distracted or angry, incommunicado with the outside world, etc). Getting drivers to take seriously the danger associated with the activity itself is key. Stigmatizing texting-while-driving is fine, but if we’re serious about continuing to push the fatality figures down, the most important thing we can do is make the kind of transit investments and change the regulatory environment to encourage the construction and development of neighborhoods and cities that facilitate low-car lifestyles. (To mount a hobby-horse of mine, down with parking requirements!) The good news is the kids want it, if we’ll let them have it.

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