A Ban On “Walking While Wired”?

by Walter Olson on February 4, 2011

[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

New York state senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) is crusading to ban pedestrians’ use of cellphones and other mobile devices while crossing the street. It’s for your own good, you must understand:

“When people are doing things that are detrimental to their own well being, then government should step in.”

The Daily Caller asked me to write an opinion piece about this proposal so I just did. Excerpt:

Phone use on the street has become near-ubiquitous in recent years, yet over nearly all that time — nationally as in Gotham — pedestrian death rates were falling steadily, just as highway fatalities fell steadily over the years in which “distracted driving” became a big concern.

In the first half of 2010, the national statistics showed a tiny upward blip (0.4 percent), occasioned by a relative handful of fatalities in a few states. Even a spokesman for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins, seems to agree it’s premature to jump to conclusions: “You don’t want to overreact to six months of data,” he told columnist Steve Chapman.

Like others who seek quasi-parental control over adults, Sen. Kruger tends to infantilize his charges. He told the Times: “We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross. You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”

This drew proper scorn from columnist Chapman: “Actually, you can perform all those functions and dance an Irish jig, even with text messages or rock music bombarding you.” That some ear bud devotees don’t take due caution is no reason to pretend they can’t.

C.S. Lewis, Lily Tomlin and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood all get walk-on parts as well.

{ 4 comments }

1 Richard Underwood 02.04.11 at 2:08 pm

Where is William O. Douglas when we actually need him?

2 Mark Biggar 02.04.11 at 4:47 pm

And why are only electronic devices being targeted? Books and Newspapers must be even more dangerous as they cover more of the visual field. I got my sister a tee-shirt at a bookseller’s convention this last summer that reads “If you haven’t run into a lamp post or fire hydrant recently, you’re obviously wasting valuable reading time.” :-)

3 Richard Nieporent 02.04.11 at 5:31 pm

What we need to do is reintroduce the ancient Greek practice of ostracism to deal with these Nanny Staters.

4 John Fembup 02.05.11 at 7:11 am

“When people are doing things that are detrimental to their own well being, then government should step in.

See, I have no problem with the sentiment quoted above so long as I – and I alone – possess the total national authority to define the terms “detrimental” and “well-being”. I just don’t trust anyone else setting that definition for me. You probably feel the same way, huh?

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