The Corner

Maybe I’m Confused

A bunch of emailers keep saying that the problem with getting stats on cell phone related traffic accidents is that you can’t determine whether the person driving was actually on the phone. “They can just hang up” or “They can just put the phone down.”

Maybe I’m confused but I don’t see why this should make much of a difference. Imagine, for whatever reason, there was an exploding trend in drivers drinking Nyquil on the road. Everything we know about this sweet elixer is that it would result in people getting into car accidents more than if they hadn’t. Similarly with cell phones. We may not know for sure whether a specific accident was caused by phone yakking, but we should see a spike in the overall number or rate of car crashes, right? We know that cell phone use has exploded in this country. It doesn’t seem like car crashes have. In fact they seem to have gone down. See here and here. Now I understand that there are other factors which may make it hard to tease data so as to highlight the phone-use issue. But economists and statisticians are really, really good at figuring-out these sorts of issues, so I’m surprised there’s no data to support Carrey’s point. Or I should say I’m surprised he didn’t cite any.

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