Don’t drive and dial

Really intrigued by this Atlantic piece on the most dangerous things to do while driving.  Here’s the key chart:

(an odds-ratio near 1 indicates the activity is no more dangerous than driving without doing the activity; whereas an odds-ration of 8 means the activity makes driving 8x more dangerous).

I really like that the separate the data into beginning vs experienced drivers as there are really important differences.  And it’s nice to see that experience pays off.  And we can see that even for experienced drivers dialing is dangerous.  Alas, this data is from 2006-2008, so no Siri.  I’m thinking “call home” has got to be safer than looking at your phone to find the “home” contact.

Also quite interesting that– in clear contradiction with many other studies– it suggests that talking on the phone is not actually any more dangerous.  Even for inexperienced drivers.  Clearly more research is needed here.

As for me, my general rule is to not do anything that requires looking at my phone while in motion (i.e., I will choose a phone contact at a traffic light).  I also allow myself to talk on the phone as long as traffic levels are modest.

Photo of the day

It appears that the Telegraph has not added a new animal photos of the week gallery since the last time I linked to them, but that’s okay, because it’s not every day you see a cheetah chasing a labrador:

Cheetah and dog

Savannah, the one-and-a-half-year-old cheetah and Max the labrador, who is just a few weeks younger, were put together when Savanah was just 10-weeks-old. Ever since, their friendship has amazed visitors at Cincinatti Zoo, who are delighted but confused as to why the spotted beast hasn’t eaten the dashing hound. So, when it snowed, Savanah and Max just like young children were very excitable and wasted no time playing in the snow.Picture: MICHELLE CURLEY / CATERS NEWS

Marijuana is bad for kids. And, yes, it should still be legal

I was annoyed by this Ruth Marcus column yesterday on marijuana legalization.  That said, I think she raised a number of good points that are worth mentioning:

So the reason to single out marijuana is the simple fact of its current (semi-)illegality. On balance, society will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance. In particular, our kids will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance.

As the American Medical Associationconcluded in recommending against legalization in November, “Cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.” It added: “It is the most common illicit drug involved in drugged driving, particularly in drivers under the age of 21. Early cannabis use is related to later substance use disorders.”

And this point, for me, is the most convincing: “Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood, and psychotic thought disorders.”

A 2012 study of more than 1,000 New Zealanders from birth to age 38 found that “persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education.” Long-term users saw an average decline of eight IQ points.

Once again, teenage toking was the problem. The decrease in IQ was linked only to those with adolescent marijuana use, not those who started in adulthood.

All, true.  Clearly regular marijuana use in adolescence is bad.  I would love to know the numbers of teenagers, though, who actually qualify for “persistent use” or “heavy use.”  I suspect they are both quite low and I also suspect that legalization to those over 21 will not dramatically increase the number in either category.  More importantly, everything in life is cost-benefit and Marcus way too easily elides the benefit of changing our policy with but a single sentence.

Throwing people in jail for smoking pot is dumb and wasteful.

You think?!  Damn straight.  Legalization is about not throwing people in jail for smoking pot.  I hate to think of lots of Americans losing IQ points because we legalized marijuana (not that this is even a given).  But I much prefer that to the option of the horribly wasteful, terrifically stupid, monstrously inefficient, grossly unequal,  war on drugs approach that characterizes our present policy towards marijuana.

%d bloggers like this: