Monday, July 25, 2005

Shut up and drive

For the third time in my life, an idiot on a car phone has pulled in front of me. Yesterday I was driving in the Valley when a guy in a white Mercedes pulled to the end of a drive, stopped, then pulled out about twenty feet in front of me. As was the case the other two times, I was able to avoid the fool.

So why am I writing about this in a political blog? Because for certain breeds of conservatives – mostly radio ranters but also avatars of tiny government – local traffic ordinances against driving and cell phoning are something of a touchstone. They are supposed to be symptomatic of intrusion into every facet of our private lives. Brooklyn, Ohio, passed a talking-while driving ban a couple years back and the local radio mouth-breathers when insane. (Didn't find much on a Google search, though check this out if you need yet another example of how economists can justify anything by jiggering the numbers.)

In fact, such ordinances are examples of government responsiveness to new threats. As long as you believe that the government should step in when people engage in activity that endangers others, this is right in the wheelhouse of what government should do. As study after study after study shows, a driver is simply more dangerous behind the wheel if he also has a cell glued to his ear. White Mercedes Guy was out to freaking lunch yesterday. He stops, looks both ways and fails to see me. In broad daylight. On a flat stretch of road. WHEN I WAS IN A MINIVAN, FOR GOD'S SAKE.

We don't have laws against people reading while driving or having sex while driving or watching TV while driving because people generally don't do those things (though the last may be coming if Xhibit and crew have anything to say about it.) We have laws about driving while intoxicated, because people do that. And since people also yammer on their cells while they are supposed to be making sure they do not pancake me and mine, laws against it make sense.