I have spent the last 20+ years of my life doing academic research and popular writing on economics. I’ve been lucky, and my work has gotten a lot of exposure. I certainly have had a lot of fun along the way.
But, I think I can honestly say that no government has ever changed a law or a public policy as a result of my work. Sometimes politicians cite my research in pushing an agenda but having talked to these politicians, it is clear they had the agenda first, and then they went looking for research – any research – that would support their position. When I’ve taken unpopular stances (like saying children’s car seats don’t work well), there has never been even a sliver of political movement on the issue.
Finally, however, I think I may be on the verge of my first policy victory. Read More »
Our motto has always been “friends don’t let friends walk drunk.” We might have to add texting to that list. A new paper from BMJ Group shows that walking and texting is really not a good idea. The study looked at more than 1,000 pedestrians in Seattle, and found texting to be a particularly troublesome distraction:
Texters took almost two seconds (18%) longer to cross the average junction of three to four lanes than those who weren’t texting at the time.
And they were also almost four times more likely to ignore lights, to cross at the middle of the junction, or fail to look both ways before stepping off the curb.
In a country where more than 4,000 pedestrians are killed each year in traffic accidents, it seems sensible to do what we can to decrease our chances. The authors write:
Individuals may feel they have “safer use” than others, view commuting as “down time,” or have compulsive behaviors around mobile-device use. … Ultimately a shift in normative attitudes about pedestrian behavior, similar to efforts around drunk-driving, will be important to limit the … risk of mobile-device use.
A while back, a reader sent us this photo, with a warning you rarely see in the U.S.
In light of our recent podcast “The Perils of Drunk Walking,” we got in touch with Kon Scholtz, head of marketing and sales at United National Breweries, the South African company that makes the beer in question, Chibuku Shake Shake. Scholtz told us that Shake Shake is a nickname for traditional African beer made from maize and malt; it has a short shelf life (about five days), a relatively low alcohol content (3.5%) and, is meant to be shaken before consumption. It is also, according to Scholtz, very nutritional.
As for the warning on the carton, Scholtz explained. Read More »
Freakonomics has reported at length on the human tendency to worry about rare problems that are unlikely to happen versus more common problems that we tend to ignore. And perhaps because of this, we’ve also been in the vanguard of the campaign against drunk walking, which is 8 times more likely to result in your death than drunk driving.
And so a recent story from Christopher Shea at the WSJ Ideas Blog caught our eye, because it so perfectly combines these two obsessions. Shea writes that a razor blade in an apple on Halloween is a myth, and has probably never happened. Pedestrian deaths, however, are four times higher on October 31st than an average day, because so many more people are wandering around outside. We at Freakonomics would like to add that some of those Halloween revelers (the adults at least) are also more likely to be inebriated, which no doubt explains some of the accidents.