Daily Archives: September 30, 2010

Blowing Up The ‘Myths’ Of The Texting Ban

Published September 30, 2010

In my previous post on the new texting-while-driving ban, I quoted the head of the Chiefs of Police Association saying 1) the new ban will be difficult to enforce and 2) that it may result in more, not fewer, crashes.

On The Angle, Boston.com’s new opinion blog, Rob Anderson dismisses those claims as myths:

Let’s start with myth one: Many news reports have claimed — and some well-read bloggers have repeated — that driving-text bans don’t decrease the number of texting related crashes on our roads, and, that in some states, such bans have even increased them. Here’s the problem. That argument is lifted — uncritically — from a pretty unconvincing study released by the Highway Loss and Data Institute, a group of insurers that has long opposed driving-text bans. If you ignore the media and actually take a look at the report, it’s easy to see where the group’s bias has clouded its judgment.

Ahem, count me as one of those uncritical bloggers. Anderson says there are three reasons this logic is flawed:

  1. The insurance companies oppose texting bans, and the study is funded by insurance companies.
  2. The study does not provide evidence for a causal link between texting bans and increased crashes.
  3. The study compares a period in which fewer people texted overall to a period in which far more people texted.

As for Myth No. 2 — that texting laws are unenforceable — Anderson points to pilot projects in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., that proved effective.

After six months of enforcement, the department observed texting while driving plummet 68 percent in Hartford and 42 percent in Syracuse. These findings suggest — quite convincingly, I might add — that when carried out properly, bans can work.

It’s a thorough write-up, worth reading. We’ll have to wait to see just what effect the ban has here in Massachusetts. Regardless, you’re going to stop texting, right?

No More Texting Or Tweeting While Driving

Published September 30, 2010

A sign over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston alerts drivers to a new state law banning texting while driving. (Bill Sikes/AP)

A sign over the Pike in Boston (Bill Sikes/AP)

It is law in Massachusetts today: You can get fined and lose your license for getting caught texting while driving — even while stopped in traffic.

Our producer Keosha Johnson posted a really useful FAQ on the new Safe Driving Law, answering such questions as Can an officer cite someone if he or she did not actually see the person texting? and Do police officers have the right to read the text messages on someone’s phone?

The law has many skeptics, including retired Police Chief Wayne Sampson, director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, who spoke with WBUR’s Morning Edition.

“The problem with this type of a violation is that we have to observe the actual violation,” Sampson said. “And if an operator is holding the device down below the window level, it would be difficult to observe.”

And that’s exactly why texting bans elsewhere have led to the opposite of their intended effect, Sampson said.

“There has not been a reduction in motor-vehicle crashes because of this. And in some states, the number of motor vehicle crashes actually went up because they found that people were trying to be more deceptive by hiding the cellphone, and that was keeping their eyes off the roadway.”

Sampson was referring to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Back in June, I broke down exactly what “texting” means under this law — and boldly declared that you and I and everyone with a smartphone has done it. (A great many of you said no, you have never texted while driving, thank you very much.)

If you missed it, the New York Times has a great game that tests your distractedness.

Globe Will Offer 2 Websites: Free And Paid

Published September 30, 2010

We have all been waiting to see how the Boston Globe would charge for content on the Web. This just in:

The Boston Globe next year will split its digital news brands into two distinct websites, keeping Boston.com free while establishing a subscription-only pay site, BostonGlobe.com, which will feature all the content produced by the newspaper’s journalists, publisher Christopher M. Mayer said today.

The bifurcated paywall will launch in the second half of 2011.

Boston.com logo

Boston.com is one of the most valuable brands in the country.

This announcement comes the day after the departure of the website’s chief editor. Whether he saw this coming or not, David Beard was instrumental in making the Boston.com brand stand out from that of the Boston Globe.

With two strong brands in its arsenal, the NYT-owned Globe will continue building the enormous traffic and advertising revenue of Boston.com — and charge users for a premium, newspaper-like reading experience for the journalism:

BostonGlobe.com, designed to closely approximate the experience of reading the paper’s print version, will contain all the stories and other content from the day’s paper as well as exclusive reports, in-depth news, analysis, commentary, photos and graphics, plus video and interactive features.

The (paid) Globe Reader app is a start but falls short. As Dan Kennedy noted, the Reader does a poor job showcasing multimedia.

By focusing on the journalism at BostonGlobe.com — and leaving the slideshows, weather, travel news, events calendars and clutter to Boston.com — I imagine a website something like new Twitter. Focused, high design, multimedia-rich.

There are no pricing details yet.

As @agwieckowski notes on Twitter: “The NYT is next.” Another NYT property, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, erected a partial paywall in August.

Thursday Morning: Texting Ban; FBI Involved In Mattapan

Published September 30, 2010

Here’s what’s news on a pre-storm Thursday morning in Boston:

Texting While Driving Is Now Illegal

State officials say they know enforcement of the new law may not be easy, but they hope just having it on the books increases awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. (WBUR)

Police: SUV Seen Near Boston Shooting Scene Found

Boston’s police commissioner says an SUV being sought in connection with the slayings of four people earlier this week has been recovered. (AP)

Menino, City Officials Visit Mattapan After Murders

With the help of the FBI, Boston police are continuing to search for suspects in the shooting rampage that left four people dead, including a 2-year-old child, in Mattapan early Tuesday morning. A fifth person remains in critical condition. (WBUR)

2 Accused In Jaewon Martin’s Death Plead Not Guilty

As the men accused of gunning down a 14-year-old honors student in May stood behind a 4-foot wooden partition in Suffolk Superior Court during their arraignments yesterday, relatives of the victim occupied an entire row in the courtroom, sobbing and consoling one another. (Globe)

MBTA Motorcycle Unit Under Scrutiny

The I-Team first reported last week that one veteran officer is suspected of paying herself for dozens and dozens of details she never worked. Now the I-Team has learned all ten members of the MBTA police motorcycle unit are banned from working funeral processions effective immediately. (WBZ)

What are you reading today?