Battle the Dangers of Texting and Driving with Capitalism

by: Guest writer Paul Sippil

TextNinja tackles a serious public safety concern in an innovative way.  Rather than view texting while driving through the lens of punishment and control, it creates positive incentives for people to alter their behavior through a phone app where drivers will earn points for successfully refraining from texting while driving.  It also automatically silences incoming texts and sends a customized reply message, which alerts your friends that you are driving and helps raise awareness about the dangers of texting and driving.  The app even has a Campaign feature that allows community organizations to share their story, motivate text-free driving, AND provide a working solution to their followers who already want to drive safely, while quantifying their efforts through a points system so they can see the effectiveness of their message.

The Dangers of Texting and Driving and the Freedom to Protect

Now compare this approach to governments enacting laws enforced by police whose sole function is not to exercise autonomy or seek innovative solutions to societal problems, but to enforce the law, regardless of its effect on altering the behavior it aims to stop – and it is not clear whether laws banning texting while driving consistently work over the long run.

“The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.” -H.L. Mencken

These laws exemplify the futility of central control of human action, which serve in direct contrast to entrepreneurial solutions based on voluntary mutual cooperation.  Specifically, these laws actually create the perverse effect of causing people to divert their attention away from the road in their efforts to keep their phones hidden from police.
In a free society focused on protecting property rights where a crime can only result from harm done to an actual person instead of an act defying the government’s rules, police officers and citizens live harmoniously.  They look to protect and help each other rather than punish and hide.

Can Technology Improve Public Safety?

A free society also encourages the advancement and productive use of technology that continues to help humanity in all sorts of ways.  While TextNinja’s app represents a step in the right direction, imagine how many other ways that automobile manufacturers and mobile phone carriers along with businesses in other industries might the dangers of texting and drivingparticipate in improving public safety instead of relying on law enforcement?  Maybe entrepreneurs would focus on developing creative solutions for all the other driving behaviors that arguably cause more issues than the dangers of texting and driving.
And instead of stopping people, handing out fines, or making threats, police officers might actually try to help people develop safer driving habits.  And if they do stop people, maybe it would be to tell drivers to try out TextNinja!  This rhetoric of freedom should sound like common sense.  Unfortunately, when suggesting any solution other than banning texting, most people likely still consider it heretical.


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