Indiana Daily Student

Letter to the editor: We need texting and driving laws

The IDS recently published a letter by Gary Wilson, Ph.D., arguing that there shouldn’t be any laws restricting hands-on cellphone use. I found the letter so egregiously error-ridden that I simply had to respond.

First, the rules of the road are not primarily there to protect drivers from themselves — they are there to protect drivers from each other .

Dr. Wilson might be skilled enough to safely drive one-handed while conversing with his wife. But should we trust our safety to every other driver’s ability to know their own skill using a cellphone behind the wheel? Absolutely not — for the very same reason that I shouldn’t trust every other driver to determine whether they are sober enough to drive.

You can choose to endanger yourself, but you cannot choose to endanger others. Since the scientific and medical consensus is that both cellphone use and alcohol make drivers more dangerous, the answer to Dr. Wilson’s question is there ought to be a law.

I would like to note that Dr. Wilson presents as contentious a well-established relationship between cellphone use and car accidents, using several faulty arguments and cheap rhetorical tricks to do so.

I spot a red herring, since laws of all sorts frequently vary between states, scare-quotes, the wholesale dismissal of a huge swath of epidemiological research, a plea for information that could be found in 30 seconds by Googling and pretending that information doesn’t exist, an assumption that is baseless and, frankly, ridiculous as the average American spends about 100 minutes a day driving and at most an hour on a cellphone, Dr. Wilson then using that assumption to cloud the issue, ignoring the decade between 1995 and 2005, ignoring the problem of controlling for independent variables that might have reduced the rate of accidents, such as the fall in annual miles traveled since 2007, a decline in drunken driving or even a change in the behavior of people reporting crashes, and finally he makes an anecdotal argument and several emotional appeals.

You could substitute “alcohol” for “cellphone use;” Wilson’s arguments would work for that, too.

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