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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The nanny state, coming to a road near you

Today's Chronicle has a story on pending legislation that would ban the use of cell phones while driving. Predictably, it's a laundry list of glaring media bias. Let's analyze the story, and see if it has any bias indicators:
Four years ago, 18-year-old Brandon Grisham was killed on a Fort Worth road after swerving to avoid another car whose driver was merging into his lane while talking on her cell phone. Hoping to protect others from the same fate, Brandon's mother, Dorothy, lobbied the House State Affairs Committee on Monday in favor of several bills aimed to restrict cell phone use while driving.
This is what we call "embedded opinion" and an "unchallenged assumption." The story offers no evidence that Brandon's death had anything to do with a cell phone. Now let's look at the quotes in the story:
"My (family) and I are confident that each of you have witnessed someone (so) distracted by their cell phone conversation that they are oblivious to their surroundings," she said. "They impede traffic, cause increased lane changes and greatly multiply the amount of accidents."
"Greatly multiply?" By how many times? Two? Ten? Fifty? Even if it's two, this woman claims that if we ban cellphones, the number of accidents will fall by half. It's hyperbole, pulled out of the air. Does the Chron's reporter try to dig up any actual facts? Nope. Unchallenged assumption.
"All we are trying to do here is ask folks to pay attention to what they are doing and keep both hands on the wheel," Menendez said.
School bus drivers "have to operate a two-way radio, watch their gauges, be alert to road hazards and conditions and maneuver the bus through traffic," Giddings said. "A single driver must also supervise up to 65 students. They have too many things to do ... to be having a casual conversation."
"Reading maps, changing radio stations, addressing their children, changing CDs or cassettes. These are what we should be focusing on, inattentive driving," Flores said.
"Not every Texas resident uses a cell phone, but every Texas resident could be put in danger by someone who is distracted," [Menendez] said.
Three pro-ban quotes, one against. This is also an example of quote tilting. It pits a mourning mother against an eeeevil cellular provider, and we know that those guys are only after money. And eeeevil.

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