Another Bad Law

"Moderation in all things." That line from Lost Horizon, in response to the question of how the monks lived such long lives, has always seemed like a good political guiding philosophy to me. Since my neck is sore from watching the extreme legal back and forth this country has experienced over the last few decades, it seems particularly attractive.

My beloved Oregon has a particular problem with moderation. A free range, gun toting, Prius driving libertarian bleeding heart, the average Oregonian is teeming with inconsistency. And we are ok with that. We are loath to enact new laws but quick to promote a new referendum on just about anything.

But Oregon is working on a bad new law. We wouldn't be the first to enact this particular stinker but our representatives have joyously jumped on the bandwagon.

What is this law? It's one that makes it illegal to talk on a cell phone unless it's hands free.

Now one might be surprised how old Pliny, working in a professional niche where the consequences of poor driving are all too evident, could be against such a law, so let me explain by way of example.

Last week I was driving back to my office from a meeting and merged onto a six lane highway where the speed limit is 55 mph. Traffic in the right lane was moving at about 50 mph so I checked my six, signaled to merge and began to move to the center lane. I noticed a car behind me also now coming off the on ramp and shooting into the middle lane. At the time I began my merge their were a good 6-7 car lengths between us. As I merged the driver gunned their car and by the time I was fully in the middle lane it was within 3 feet of my bumper. In my rearview mirror I could see some young woman cursing and waving her arms, completely red in the face. She flipped me off, pulled around the right side of my car to curse at me, and then she cut in front of me with only a couple of feet to spare. I had to brake in order not to hit her. Had I been a cop, I'd have thrown her out of control and reckless keester into jail.

I mention this episode (certainly not the only encounter I've seen with road rage) not to call attention to this appalling lack of judgement which could have caused an accident, but to illustrate my concern with new laws. Enforce the ones we have, determine what is missing from these laws when properly enforced and only then consider adding new ones.

The person in my encounter wasn't on a cell phone but she was a reckless driver. We have laws to cover that if they are enforced. Proponents of the cell phone ban claim that drivers on cell phones weave in an out of traffic and create a hazzard. That's reckless driving. Pulling over to make a call isn't necessarily safer. Mrs Pliny was rear-ended one time while on the cell - she had pulled over to answer the call when someone spaced and hit her.

There are a thousand distractions when we drive - kids, conversation, coffee, tunes, eating, primping, our mood, you name it. It is definitely true that driving a car is the most dangerous activity most of us perform. To complicate things without justification won't make it better or any safer. enforce existing laws. Get reckless and drunk drivers off the road before you worry too much about cell phones.


mac said...

I agree with you Pliny. Reckless is reckless, what ever the reason.

I also think we may be going down that slippery slope when we ban cell phones. It is a communication device. Should we realy restrict communication? Can we( I mean morally)?

Hands free only? I mostly use one hand to drive anyway. Left hand on the wheel, right hand on the shifter.

Couldn't I use ONE hand to hold a phone and one to drive? Does the act of not using my hand to talk make me less distracted? What of the expressive handed talkers( you guys know who you are, arms flailing about)?

Besides, I did most of my recklessness when I was younger, long before cell phones were so ubiquitous. I suspect the same still holds true.

Like my Uncle Joe said, "If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk."

Stacy S. said...

You had me concerned at first, but then you made up for it. Whew! Thought you'd lost your mind for a moment.

California has a "Distracted Driver" law that is more generalized and would serve the same purpose.

mac said...

BUT, I have found thatit is hard to talk on the phone, smoke a cigarette, shift, and eat lunch all at the same time.

I should put down that phone ;-)

Michael Lockridge said...

Regulators (those who love to regulate things) aspire to the task of law maker. Regulators regulate. A set of well crafted laws consistently enforced would not satisfy these creatures.

Anyway, without rampant regulation what would the enforcers (those who love to enforce regulations) have to do? Enforcers love the exponential expansion of laws they can enforce.

"Persons are smart. People are stupid." MIB