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Don't punish the rest of us
May 3, 2010
by Herald Journal & Enteprise Dispatch Editor Lynda Jensen

The recent rash of fatal accidents on Minnesota roads is extremely unfortunate in many ways.

We have yet to find out how “unfortunate” those ways will be, and what the implications are, depending on what lawmakers do to so-called “prevent” more accidents.

I say this because you can’t prevent someone from not using common sense if they already don’t honor existing laws. More laws won’t fix this.

Teens in many of the fatal accidents were doing all kinds of illegal and unwise things.

Some were driving after midnight (which is against the law in your first six months of licensure). Some were drinking. Some were in a car packed full of other teens (also restricted for young drivers). Of course, no seatbelts were used.

All of these things are already addressed in existing law for teen drivers.

How do you stop people from doing dumb things?

The answer is, you really can’t legislate common sense – but you can certainly make law-abiding citizens suffer and pay for the recklessness of others.

My daughter is a teen driver and plays by all the rules. At the age of 16, she studied very hard to obtain her license and is a good driver. She’s careful and responsible.

She doesn’t drink and drive, or ride with too many other teens, and didn’t drive after hours, per Minnesota law. She faithfully uses her seatbelt.

She doesn’t do any of the dumb things associated with the accidents we’ve witnessed.

Yes, she’s inexperienced, as we all were at that age, and it’s true that good drivers get into a crash once in a while. Everyone uses poor judgment sometimes. However, she consistently uses good judgment as a teen driver.

Consistently good driving habits won’t stop lawmakers from making laws more restrictive on my daughter – the good driver – to punish those who are bad teen drivers.

Will our son have to go through more restrictive driving rules because of some other teens who used poor judgment and didn’t follow the rules – and never had plans to do so in the first place?

It’s maddening to watch lawmakers who somehow think that dreaming up more laws, more rules and more regulations will make people more responsible or more level-headed.

It just doesn’t work that way. More laws equals less freedom.

There will always be people who use poor judgment, even for a moment in time. You can’t legislate away car accidents or misfortune.

My opinion is that these teens were likely to be in crashes anyway because they didn’t follow the law or common sense. If they were out at 2 a.m., driving at all hours of the night, without seatbelts on, and drinking, then I ask, what possible good outcome could this have? It’s just plain crazy.

Please don’t make more laws to punish good drivers. In the end, it will prevent nothing, and be yet another thing for a bad driver to ignore.