Free 'not' to do anything

Jan. 19, 2009

by Herald Journal & Enteprise Dispatch Editor Lynda Jensen

It’s annoying to have more and more laws added to the books, driven by well-meaning people who are really intent on removing every last vestige of freedom in this country that exists.

Surely it will be impossible some day to actually “do” anything in this supposedly “free” country because there will be some law against something based on statistical data of some kind for our collective good.

At this rate, we will create a near-police state where it’s legal to “not” do many things – and yet be still convince ourselves we are free. Free of what? Free “not” to do something?

In this case, the National Safety Council wants to ban cell phone use in car, saying it’s equivalent to drunken driving.

I like to drive – and if I want to – talk on the phone with my cell phone. I have never had an accident associated with this practice and don’t drive like a drunk when I do it.

Now, I write accident articles for the newspaper on a regular basis. And I have noticed a number of factors in crashes, according to our reliable local law enforcement:

• Speed
• Alcohol
• Lack of seatbelt use (not a cause, but increases severity)

Time and again I’ve reported this – not once being told that cell phone use was the cause of any accident – and all three of the above contributors have laws on the books already to address them as problems.

There is also something called “inattentive or distracted driving,” which actually covers cell phone use under existing law. Inattentive driving covers all kinds of things that contribute to accidents.

We don’t need more laws to make people follow the first law they aren’t following in the first place.

In fact, I have my own set of recommendations to limit our freedoms, and add more laws to the books. Here they are.

More laws we could enact:

• We should ban drive-throughs at fast food places because they contribute to inattentive driving. You shouldn’t be driving and eating.

• Cupholders should be removed from cars and the police should make regular stops to make sure you aren’t drinking coffee or any other thing that might distract you from driving.

• kids should be barred from riding as passengers in vehicles, because they contribute to inattentive driving. This is particularly true when I’m telling the 4-year-old who is throwing a tantrum in the backseat that I’ll stop the car if she doesn’t stop distracting me from driving.

• CD players and stereos/radios should be barred from all vehicles that are manufactured, starting in 2010. Music is a distraction from driving.

You get my point? When will it end?

And by the way – statistics are not a good excuse to create more laws.

The safety council says that 6 percent of accidents can be associated with cell phone use. What is responsible for the other 94 percent? And were the drivers breaking laws already?

Here’s a good statistics joke for you: Is the sale of ice cream linked to higher crime rates?

Of course not. They are in no way correlated, even though both seem to go up corresponding to each other. They are both linked to warmer weather, which seems to be linked to higher crime.

Even the article I looked up on MSNBC gave two examples of cell phone accidents in a story about this subject – one of someone who drove through a stop sign, and another of someone who rear-ended another. Both of these drivers can already be ticketed for those actions with laws on the books right now.

I think the National Safety Council should pursue some other worthy venture.