Stop! Police! Drop the iPod and kick it over here!

February 10, 2007

And from the Save People From Themselves, While Conveniently Raising Revenue by Penalising Use of a Ubiquitous Pop Culture Icon Department:

Crossing the street in New York while talking on a mobile phone or listening to an iPod could soon be punishable by a $US100 ($A128.8) fine, under a draft bill being presented by a state senator.

Those darn kids today. Spacing out on the Beatnik Jive and the Be-bop.

Cursing what he called the scourge of “iPod oblivion”, Senator Carl Kruger said two of his Brooklyn constituents had been killed in recent months after walking into the path of oncoming traffic while listening to music.

Or you could fine people for, oh I don’t know, stupidity? Just a suggestion.

Is there any actual evidence that the music was the cause of the accidents? As any statistician will tell you, (what do you mean you don’t know any statisticians?) correlation and causation are not the same thing. Both constituents were presumably wearing clothes as well, you could just as easily point to that as a common factor. And who claims statistical significance from a sample size of two?

But, statistical geekery aside, where are the boundaries on something like this? What if you are talking to someone next to you when you cross the road? Or are distracted by a billboard? I don’t see how a reasonable person can take someone’s completely arbitrary decision about what constitutes a distraction, as the basis of a law.

Kruger said transgressors would be required to appear in court to face a $US100 fine

And how do you prosecute or defend something like that – on whom does the burden of proof lie? How do you even tell if someone with headphones on has their mp3 player turned on? Let alone prove it?

He said he wanted to make people aware of the “potentially deadly dangers that lurk outside the deceptive serenity of your iPod

And why stop there? What about the “deceptive serenity” of thinking? They could call it Preoccupied While Walking or something.

“Excuse me sir.”
“Yes officer?”
“You looked preoccupied when you were crossing the street just then.”
“Why yes. It’s been a long week, I must have zoned out.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to fine you sir.”
“Excuse me?”
“Lucky you were just tired. If you’d been singing to yourself I would have had to take you down.”

And why single out pedestrians? Cars were a common factor in the two cited accidents, what about drivers listening to music and talking on car phones? A pedestrian puts only their own life at risk, someone in control of a vehicle is a threat to other people.

I think it’s just a case of looking for an easy target to give the appearance of taking decisive action. The iPod is an easy target, because people typically fear and misunderstand new technologies, as described in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy:

Rules describing the reaction of most lifeforms to emerging technologies:

1) Anything that is in your world when you are born is normal ans ordinary and is just a natural part of the way things work.
2)Anything that’s invented in the first third of your lifespan is new and exciting and revolutionary, and you can probably get a career in it.
3) Anything invented once you are middle aged is against the natural order of things.

Ah, we miss you Douglas.

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2 Responses to “Stop! Police! Drop the iPod and kick it over here!”


  1. […] evidence. Apparently. Now the Age brings us more on the great iPod menace i mentioned earlier. The makers of the iPod should be responsible for warning users of the dangers of using the music […]


  2. And why single out pedestrians? Cars were a common factor in the two cited accidents, what about drivers listening to music and talking on car phones? A pedestrian puts only their own life at risk, someone in control of a vehicle is a threat to other people.

    Issue: nailed.


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