Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Broken windows theory in action

There's a theory that a house with a broken window left unrepaired merely invites more of the same. Presumably, it's because vandals think either the house is abandoned, or that there are no consequences for their actions. The UK banned driving while talking on a handheld mobile phone (headsets are okay) last year, and imposed a GBP30 fine on offenders. Personally speaking, where I live in Southeast London, most people apparently have handsets surgically embedded in their palms at birth, and seem to be on some sort of 20,000 minute per month plans, as far as I can see. There's no evidence that driving interferes with ubiquitous communication for this crowd, and I have never seen anything resembling enforcement in my neighborhood (that requires policemen, afterall - I did see one yesterday morning, speeding to the scene of a crime, talking on a mobile phone).

Today motoring group RAC has revealed that handheld mobile use while driving has actually gone up dramatically in the wake of the ban. Go figure. Cynical short-term solution for the investor? Long on mobile players, short on insurance companies with exposure to consumer auto insurance. The longer term answer, and challenge for anyone working in the arena of mobile presence and vehicle information systems, is to come up with a way to identify when the mobile user is driving, whether a headset is being used, and then levy the fine directly to the miscreant's SIM card.

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