Tag Archives: safety

Regulation of the Day 161: Crossing the Street

Three states are proposing to make it illegal to listen to your iPod while crossing the street. Legislators in California, New York, and Oregon are leading the charge, citing increasing pedestrian deaths. A similar proposal in Arkansas was retracted after constituents mobbed the state legislator who wrote the bill with hate mail.

Pedestrian deaths did go slightly up last year. But pedestrian deaths have been trending down for two decades, despite the rise of iPods and smartphones. Turns out that most people have enough common sense to pay more attention to traffic than their phone while crossing the street.

Legislating common sense is at best redundant. But in this case, it’s actually harmful. Police departments only have so many resources to go around. All the time and manpower they spend watching people cross the street is time and manpower not spent on more serious crimes. This is a solution without a problem.

Caroline May has more over at the Daily Caller (I am also quoted).

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Regulation of the Day 132: Fire Sprinklers

The U.S. tax code stands at well over 100,000 pages. All but the hardiest of souls hire professionals to do their taxes for them. Cries for simplification grow every year.

How does Congress respond? By introducing legislation to “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to classify automatic fire sprinkler systems as 5-year property for purposes of depreciation.”

Regulation of the Day 124: Kissing Your Girlfriend Good-Bye

How do we know the terrorists are winning? When a man kissing his girlfriend good-bye at Newark Liberty International Airport results in the evacuation of an entire terminal, 200 delayed or canceled flights, and re-screening for thousands of passengers.

There is a word for this: overreaction. If this how the government reacts to a threat that is 20 times scarcer than being struck by lightning, we are doing something wrong.

Yes, the criminal kisser was wrong to sneak under a security rope to get one last peck from his girlfriend. But closing down an entire terminal at a major airport for six hours is overdoing it. Just take a look at the offender.

His name is Haisong Jiang. He is 28 years old and very much in love. He emigrated to the U.S. from China in 2004, and met his girlfriend at Rutgers University. She recently moved to California, though they remain together. Mr. Jiang is still in the New York area, pursuing a biology Ph.D. When he receives his degree later this year, he plans to move to California to be with her. He is clearly not a terrorist.

Mr. Jiang’s forbidden kiss was recorded by surveillance cameras. It was clear that he was sneaking a kiss, not a bomb. Even so, a five-day manhunt ensued. Mr. Jiang was arrested and tried. Fortunately, his sentence is a light one: “a $500 fine and $158 in costs and fees,” plus 100 hours of community service.

I was a bit worried that he would have been shipped to Guantanamo Bay, frankly. Hopefully retired Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, the new head of the TSA, will take steps to make airport security more rational and less driven by fear.

Regulation of the Day 117: Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are delicious. Especially if you don’t think too hard about what they’re made of. Kids love them. So do adults. With baseball’s spring training already underway, consumption of the national pastime’s unofficial food is set to skyrocket in the coming months.

All is not sunshine, happiness, and home runs, though. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention thinks that hot dogs are dangerous, calling them a “high-risk food.” They are a choking hazard for children.

“We know what shape, sizes and consistencies pose the greatest risk for choking in children and whenever possible food manufacturers should design foods to avoid those characteristics, or redesign existing foods when possible, to change those characteristics to reduce the choking risk,” said Dr. Gary Smith… “Any food that has a cylindrical or round shape poses a risk,” he pointed out.

Dr. Smith also wants mandatory warning label regulations for all hot dog packaging. But nobody seems to be asking: Just how big is the risk here?

According to WebMD, 66 to 77 children under 10 die every year from choking on food in the U.S. That’s out of more than 42,000,000 children under 10, according to my calculations from U.S. Census data.

That means your child’s odds of choking to death on food are about 1 in 545,000. And that’s assuming 77 deaths, the high end of the range. Little Timmy is literally more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 500,000) than choke to death on a hot dog.

That’s the level of threat we’re dealing with. Treat it that way.

Our children face far greater threats than mere hot dogs. Instead of advocating hot dog safety regulations of dubious benefit, the AAP should rethink its priorities. They should focus on where they can do the most good, instead of where they can do the most nothing.

Regulation of the Day 70: Combustible Dust

combustible dust

OSHA has published a proposed rule to regulate one of the greatest threats to mankind: combustible dust.

It is defined as “all combustible particulate solids of any size, shape, or chemical composition that could present a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or other oxidizing medium.”

Maybe it speaks well of workplace safety if OSHA has made combustible dust one of its highest priorities.

A pessimist might counter that OSHA, having regulated everything else, has been reduced to regulating obscurities in its never-ending search for something to do, and for someone to command.