Is hands-free really safer?

October 30, 2009

The National Post asks Is hands-free really safer?.

Actually holding a cellphone to your ear to conduct a conversation would, at first blush, not appear as dangerous, but then you do often have to avert your eyes to manually key in a phone number, so the loss of the traditional phone call while driving is not to be lamented. In fact, were our provincial legislature more brave, it would have banned an even wider list of activities all too common to modern motoring such as applying lipstick, reading the newspaper, editing manuscripts and even changing diapers (yes, indeed, I have seen that one). The common thread to all these activities is that they require diverting your eyes from the road ahead, which is very dangerous when you’re driving.

Hands-free regulation bugs me. I think people should be safe and use hands-free technology whenever possible. The key is increasing overall safety. I use a bluetooth headset when making calls in the car. My LG Chocolate is brain-dead and does not allow me to use voice dialing through the bluetooth headset so I use speed dials on the keypad which I can do by touch.

Incoming calls and unplanned outgoing high priority calls are another matter. I’d like to think that I am capable of weighing the safety costs rather than have a well-meaning but sometimes misguided law that states that if I’m holding a cell phone to my ear I am breaking the law. I understand that a clear-cut law is better than the subjective opinion of a police officer and/or judge, but the regulation still bugs me.

Perhaps its just my own conceit to believe that I make above average cell phone while driving decisions, above average LCBO bottles in the blue bin decisions, above average incandescent light bulb decisions, and above average grocery plastic bag re-use decisions.

Rogers Cable has the following to say about the CRTC LPIF (Local Programming Improvement Fund):

New Fee on your Bill
Beginning September 1, 2009, customers will see a new line on their invoice called CRTC LPIF Fee, and a corresponding charge of 1.5% of their recurring TV monthly service fee. Rogers Cable does NOT benefit from the LPIF fees collected. These fees are directly remitted to the CRTC’s Local Programming Improvement Fund, for the use solely by broadcasters like CTV and Global serving markets with less than 1 million people.

The CRTC has the following to say about cable companies passing on the LPIF fee to customers:

Several cable and satellite companies want to increase their customers’ rates by 1.5%. Can the CRTC prevent this?

In Public Notice 2008-100 (paragraph 357), the CRTC indicated that in light of the performance2 level of the cable and satellite sector and the benefits accruing to broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) as a result of other changes being made to the regulatory framework, the Commission saw no justification for BDUs to pass along any increased costs relating to the LPIF to their subscribers.

This is an example of a non-intuitive economic principle. You can not tax companies. You can only force companies to collect tax from customers on behalf of the government. Not only do you have hidden taxes but you also have hidden tax collection.

Actually, Rogers is making it a little less hidden but the principle still holds. Consumers always pay one way or another.