Friday, July 5, 2013
Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts; driving while on the phone is not
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), consumer fireworks in 2011 caused 17,800 fires in the United States which "resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths." Two things stand out in this factoid: 1) Like guns, cars and kitchen knives, fireworks generally do not injure or kill people without the intervention of a human being; and 2) what about the gathering of these statistics required the NFPA to qualify their statement with "an estimated eight reported civilian deaths?"
The American Pyrotechnics Association and National Council on Fireworks Safety offer up that an average of four people die from failed use of fireworks each year in the U.S. Many more, as one would suspect, are injured in fireworks accidents, logging 9,600 visits to the emergency room in 2011.
Groups that advocate for illegalizing fireworks, such as the Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks (formed by the NFPA and the American Academy of Pediatrics), argue that the dangers of using consumer fireworks outweigh the fun factor and that it's an optional activity in that no one must operate fireworks.
For purposes of comparison, one might argue that operating a cell phone while driving is also an optional activity and that it is far more dangerous than setting off a bottle rocket. In fact, the National Safety Council cites at least 1.3 million automobile crashes in 2011 that involved cell phone usage. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that 3,092 deaths were attributable to cell phone sourced distracted driving in 2010.
Given the magnitude of accidents, injuries and deaths associated with cell phone use while driving, would we not benefit from banning this activity in Massachusetts?
Could a cell phone ban be enforced? How do you know when someone is talking on a hands-free cell phone, singing along with Jim Croce's "Operator," or talking to himself? What if police were armed with a device that could detect that a cell phone is in use?
By the way, forget about banning cell phones unless the driver is using a hands-free device. The issue is not holding a phone to your ear; it's distracted driving. Several studies have shown that hands-free devices show no benefits over hand held cell phone use while driving.
Are you ready to relinquish more of your liberty in exchange for saving a life? Or hundreds of lives? To put it another way, do we want or need the government to again save ourselves from ourselves?