Defending the right to be irresponsible behind the wheel

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Forgive the use of this obvious and overused phrase: Americans have very special relationships with their cars. But it’s true and a couple things I read this week reminded me of this.

First, this letter to the editor of the Savannah Morning News (scroll down to “Safe driving a personal responsibility”) that acknowledges the danger of texting while driving, but warns  we should keep government our of our cars.

“People can do what they want while they drive. The state representatives cannot stop anyone from reading and responding to text messages. It is neither their phone nor their car, so they should back off.”

Of course we can do anything we want while we drive. Isn’t that in the constitution or something? But why limit it to cars? I’d like to ride down the middle of Broughton Street on the back of my moderately tame grizzly bear while swinging my baseball bat. Also, I will be blindfolded. While I don’t mean to intentionally hurt anyone, I understand that my bear could maul a bystander and that my bat could conk someone on the head. Still, it’s my bear, my bat and my blindfold. So back off!

If we get government out of our cars, what should they be doing? Our letter writer knows:

“I can understand them feeling responsible for what goes on, but they should be taking care of more important things like fixing roads, helping people who need jobs and insurance, and the necessities that the state has to deal with.”

It is important to note that “fixing roads” is code that usually means widening them to five lanes or more without any consideration given to road users who do not travel in cars. These “fixed” roads are dangerous by design. Two local teenagers were serioulsy injured on one such road this week. At least our letter writer can take solace in the fact that our elected officials are taking care of more important things, like drafting laws that punish drivers who fail to speed.

This entry was posted in Government, Transportation on by .

About John Bennett

Transportation, land use, local farming and green building are all potential topics for Sustainable Savannah. The goal is to aggregate content about local events and projects, so there will be a central place to review everything that’s happening. The site is aimed at encouraging collaboration and information sharing between groups and individuals currently engaged in sustainability efforts. The site can also provide a snapshot of Savannah for green-minded people who are considering visiting or moving to the area.

5 thoughts on “Defending the right to be irresponsible behind the wheel

  1. Bryan Fordham

    So your point, then, is anything that could possibly hurt someone should be outlawed? We have laws about wild animals and swinging bats already. What about just walking down the street carrying a bat, though? I might swing it, and it might hit someone. We need a law for that, too, perhaps.

    Implying that what the author of that letter means by saying the government should “fix the roads” is that they should build more roads without crosswalks is another example of silly logic on your part.

    We already have laws against running over people. And we have laws against driving dangerously. Those certainly need to be enforced.

    And perhaps there’s a good argument to be made about expanding those laws to cover texting while driving, but I’m afraid you didn’t make one here.

  2. Daniel

    The logic of this post makes perfect sense. I don’t think the point is that anything that could possibly hurt someone should be outlawed, but that anything that has pretty good chance of hurting someone should. The evidence of the dangers of texting while driving are accepted by all roadway safety organizations. There is no controversy.

    This letter to the editor suggests the governement response should be based on property right (“this is my car!”) which is ridiculous. You are driving in public. Regulations should be based on data.

    Should it be illegal to possess a cell phone/ baseball bat in public? No.
    Should it be illegal to use it to text while driving/swing it recklessly? Yes.

  3. Bryan Fordham

    The logic doesn’t make perfect sense unless you begin from the assumption that the government should regulate anything potentially dangerous.

    I also never said it wasn’t dangerous to text and drive. But this type of hyperbolic posts don’t make the case well at all.

  4. Zufechten

    Every right and privilege comes with the attendant responsibility to exercise it with regard to the effects on others, whether it is dumping toxic materials, selling risky real estate derivatives, or operating a three ton truck while not paying attention.

    To rephrase an old saying, your privilege to drive your car ends where my nose begins.

  5. Bgrand2day

    the government has no right to tell me what i can and cannot do. im can operate a car fine while texting, in fact people not texting arent always as good at driving, so i dont think the goverment can tell me not to. its violating my rights not to let me do what i want in my own car.

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