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March 25th, 2010:

Michigan Senate votes to make texting while driving a primary offense [distracted driving]

Long Beach Harbor Patrol Say No Photography From a Public SidewalkWhile they can’t find the time to balance the state budget, qualify for $800 million in federal road funds, or reform the state’s broken tax structure, the Michigan State Senate did find time today to pass sweeping legislation criminalizing the use of cell phones in cars. This is apparently a pressing issue—despite the fact that our roads are safer than ever before.

Under the bill, texting while driving would be a primary offence. This means that a police officer can pull you over for texting while driving—not just write you an additional ticket for it after you’ve already been stopped.

The Detroit Free Press has more:

The 28-10 Senate vote means the House must now agree with the Senate change. That agreement is uncertain because many House members opposed allowing police to stop drivers for text messaging, as they can for not wearing a seat belt. But Rep. Lee Gonzales, D-Flint, sponsor of the original bill, said he prefers the Senate version and said he’ll try to muster enough votes in the House to go along with it.

How, exactly the police will determine who is texting remains to be seen. I don’t know about you, but when I use a cell phone in the car it is often on my lap—a place that is very hard for anyone not in the car to see. Does this bill mean that anyone who glances down can now be pulled over for suspected texting while driving? What if I’m looking down to put hot sauce on my Taco Bell and the police think I’m texting? Will I get a ticket for that?

Here is more Distracted Driving coverage, including a look at why it is silly to ban cell phones in cars.

Value eating with calorie counts [fast food]

One of the many little goodies inside the new health care bill is that chain restaurants nationwide will have to start displaying calorie counts on menus. The new regulation will apply to restaurants with more than 20 locations. Health advocates hope that giving consumers calorie information will “nudge” them into lower-calorie options at the local fast food joint.

I’m not sure that is going to happen.

New York City has had a similar law on the books for a few years now. Having experienced it first-hand, I can tell you that while the calorie counts haven’t dissuaded me from eating Big Mac’s they are quite useful for figuring out which menu item gives you the biggest caloric bang for your buck. Think of these calorie counts as a useful tool for fast food value eating.

Here is a graphic Slate published a few months back illustrating the point:

Marketing to Americans [travel]

Conrad Hilton was a visionary.

Not only did he build one of the world’s most famous hotel chains, but he also understood that the best way to make Paris and other European cities more appealing was, well, to make his hotels there more like America. This meant installing two things: air conditioning and steakhouses.

After all, just because you’re traveling in France doesn’t mean you have to sweat (and smell) like the French!

[Photo credit: lobstar28 via Slate]

What is the smell of America?

BBQ Ribs on the WSMIs it fresh-cut grass? Morning dew? Car exhaust? Fresh human urine on the sidewalk outside Starbucks* ? (maybe that was just the first strong smell I experienced this morning)

Well, here is the answer according to the Harper’s Index:

Percentage of Americans who describe “barbecue ” as the aroma that best defines America: 39

What say you? Is BBQ really the smell that best defines America?

*Presumably this aroma was complements of late-night partier or one of the local park’s many homeless residents

(Hat tip: Anne)

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