Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, February 03, 2005

How NOT to Internalize a Risk Externality

The Trono Globe & Mail reports that when young adults drive while talking on cell phones, either hands -free or hand-held, their reaction times slow down so much that they start driving like seniors [hey! I'm not too keen on this analogy!].
“If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, his reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver,” said David Strayer, a University of Utah psychology professor and principal author of the study. “It's like instant aging.”

...In fact, motorists who talk on cellphones are more impaired than drunken drivers with blood-alcohol levels exceeding 0.08.

My first reaction is, "What's the problem? Hold them liable for whatever damages they cause, and they'll adjust their behaviour." That's one of the main goals of tort law -- the deterrent effect.

Oops. Oh yeah. We have no-fault insurance in Ontario. So gubmnt intervention in one market distorts incentives elsewhere, providing further justifications for additional gubmnt intervention in other markets. Surely Franz Kafka must have written something about this.

What about us seniors and near-seniors?
...elderly drivers using a cellphone aren't any more of a hazard to themselves and others than young drivers.

Nyah Nyah Nyah....

UPDATE: Tom Hanna has some interesting thoughts in light of the results of this study:
...a teen on a cell phone and your average 70 year old are both more impaired than a .08 BAC two-beer “drunk”. So, either there needs to be a vicious crackdown on the first two complete with arrests, handcuffs and jail time or the third isn’t as bad as we’ve been led to believe. Now, are we ready to cuff and stuff Granny, yank her driver’s license, fingerprint her, take her mugshot, print her name in the paper as the moral equivalent of a murderer or is it time that maybe as a free society we rethink the whole zero-tolerance hype?
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