Is Texting while driving “not safe”? Should data matter?

In researching stories for our upcoming “Real Tech for Real People” podcast, I came across this story in the Washington post about efforts to outlaw texting while driving.  There were many things that I thought were “interesting” in the article (such as by allowing someone to claim they were dialing a phone legislators have some how “weasel’d out” of their responsibility. Hmmm… )

What ultimately caught my eye, though was the argument, buried deep in the article, that for such a pervasive and deadly action to be occurring  so frequently (the article reports “at any given moment the drivers of 812,000 cars are in mid-conversation on the nation’s highways”) we are not seeing a comparable increase in accidents/deaths.

What Does It Take to Get Texting Off Roads? (Wash Post)

“Given those findings and vast cellphone use, the experts are puzzled by the fact that overall crash rates haven’t increased dramatically, too. Without statistics to show that, persuading drivers — and legislators — not to use cellphones becomes more problematic, even considering the current impact.

“If it’s not causing additional crashes, then banning it isn’t going to reduce crashes,” Lund said. “The risk of talking on a cellphone is real, but it’s entirely possible that it’s replacing some other risky behavior.””

I am not seeking to defend (or condemn) texting while driving in this blog post.  I am, however, wondering when we are going to see the return to objective analysis of data.  Wasn’t that what the new Administration was going to bring?  A removal of political motivations from science, and a return to objectivity?

Just a thought.

Want to hear my thoughts more fully on this, and other tech topics that “Real People” have to deal with?  Come listen, as Tony Pittman and I discuss Real Tech for Real People–a weekly podcast talking about tech where we all live.  (Don’t have iTunes?  Go listen at Tony’s site: Get The Next___)