Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where do we draw the line?

So, just where do we draw the line to be saved from ourselves by nanny-laws?

Okay, so the argument can be made that seat belt laws save a lot of lives. It can also be made that it saves us a lot in insurance costs. Okay, I get that. There's a line somewhere, and seat belts are way past it. I'm fine with that one, especially since I believe in using them. I suppose the question here, however, is does what I "believe in" matter? Should there be an arbitrary line? Should we at least be able to identify it for the purposes of discussion?

Why do I ask? Well, because it's becoming more and more common for nanny-laws to be introduced. North Carolina recently passed a law that will prohibit text messaging while driving, which a good many states have done. That's following on the heels of more and more laws about using cellphones at all while driving. Many states now require you to at least be using a handsfree device. Okay, so it's fairly easy to argue that those are on the other side of the big imaginary line. Fairly easy, anyway.

But how about this? Now a New Jersey legislator has introduced the first of its kind bill that would limit people from being able to input GPS information while moving with anything other than voice activation. Is there really any data that points to this being a problem? Particularly since almost all factory navigation systems disallow this feature anyway? It's only the portable devices you add to your car yourself that let you do this, basically. Yes, cellphones are adding the capability as well, so it will become more prevalent. But where's the data? Yes, I'm sure someone somewhere has been killed by a driver who admitted to being distracted because he/she was lost and putting data in their GPS. While that is a tragedy, a few isolated cases do not put this on the other side of the line requiring nanny-laws. People will continue to be killed every year by distracted drivers for all manner of things that we won't be legislating like simply dropping your tube of Chapstick.

Nanny-laws cost money to implement and enforce. They take away personal freedom. Many simply legislate common sense anyway. Look, we all take our eyes off the road from time to time for a variety of reasons. We always will. The key is to only do it when you can safely get away with it. We need to be teaching people how to be better drivers, not legislating how not to be a bad driver.

What's most annoying about this particular GPS law, as well as the legal pressure on the manufacturers of the built-in navigation units to build this "feature" in, is that there's no way to differentiate between a passenger and a driver by the unit. So if this kind of law were to happen across most of the country, the manufacturers of the portable navigation units would probably start making even those so that you can't input data while moving. Great, now even passengers can't do it for you! With built in navigation units they already can't, and that's incredibly stupid.

1 comment:

Bob Zinn said...

Most states already have some kind of law prohibiting driving while distracted. This covers those idiots you see shaving or putting on make-up. (much more dangerous than a GPS) Not just someone using a newfangled electronic device. Are they going to make a new law every time a new gadget comes out? (yes, that is how they justify their existence) Who here has not eaten while driving? Drop something hot and/or wet and you get sidetracked real fast. There are so many other nanny laws that just piss me off. I won't even start on product warning labels.