An alternative to laws against texting while driving?

You can put on makeup while driving, fiddle with your GPS and iPod or reach back to pinch your annoying kid in the back seat, but don’t get caught texting or making cell phone calls. I remember texting-while-driving once, passing a cop, seeing him spin out of his little perch — thinking he was about to pull me over — but he stopped someone else instead (who had a similar car….hmmm! Or maybe he was just irritated that I was driving a hybrid) Anyway, a new study claims that laws prohibiting against handheld cell phones don’t reduce crashes. The appropriateness of bans has been a debate raging for a long time now.

What always seems to be missing from the popular treatements is any analysis of what market pressures could influence people not to text while driving. In the extreme, on fully private roads in a libertarian society, the activity might be banned altogether. More concretely, on our public roads, automobile insurance companies could team with cellphone companies to discipline.

OK, I admit weekend laziness and that I could’ve gone and googled it, but it would be interesting to know if there are policies that might inhibit insurers from taking self-protective (and people protective) approaches to highway risk reduction that don’t involve the perverse option of speeding policemen blasting down the road. It would seem that carriers and insurers would have mutual interests here; The cell company doesn’t benefit from a dead carrier; the insurance company doesn’t want to pay for people who are needlessly careless or reckess.

Automobiles are increasingly electric in every aspect apart from how they’re powered; onboard monitoring systems can record accident data; maybe that could be (or is?) matched up with cell phone diagnostics on whether somebody was monkeying with the keys or touchpad simultaneously. You could be warned ahead of the time, before you purchase your policy, that you aren’t covered if you’re texting while driving.

It’s food for thought, especially if the laws against texting don’t work anyway. More importantly, all technologies bring risks, and we must always explore disciplines apart from lazy legislation. So far, I haven’t texted while riding my motorcycle, but I do have a little carrier for the Blackberry there on the handlebar. Bookmark and Share