There’s a Law for ThatPosted by on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
When I lived in Kansas, it was against the law not to wear a seat belt. Most people are familiar with this law since it is now applicable in 49 states. In some states, these are primary laws, which means that no other offense needs to be committed in order for a police officer to pull you over for this infraction. In other states, seat belt laws are secondary laws, which means that there has to be a different reason for the police to pull you over and cite you for a seat belt violation.
At the time I lived in Kansas, the state legislature made the transition from the seat belt law being secondary to primary. As suspected, the reason for this was a financial one. In 2009, several other states made the switch because it made them eligible for some federal money. But, like usual, the states that made the changes cited more benevolent reasons for their decision.
This bill will save lives,” the governor said. “That’s what is important.” (Florida’s governor)
Let’s examine this for a few moments.
- First off, it is nobody’s job but your own to protect yourself or your family. If wearing seat belts is safe, people will be motivated to wear them without laws. It’s very condescending of the government or public officials to tell you that they care about you enough to protect you from your own decisions.
- What’s the real difference between a primary and a secondary seat belt law? On paper, a secondary law offers more liberty, but I don’t buy it. Everyone knows that any police officer, if so inclined, can pull you over for not wearing a seat belt even in a state where this is a so-called secondary law. They can easily follow you and wait for you to roll through a stop sign, claim you didn’t use your turn signal, notice a burned out tail light, wait for you to exceed the speed limit by 1 mph, etc. The only way we will truly have freedom in this area is if there is no law on the books about it — primary or secondary.
- If “they” are so concerned about safety, why is there such a thing as a secondary law at all? If safety were the real motivation, all states would have primary seat belt laws. The only reason for this is because it is easier for the public to swallow the infringement of their freedoms a little at a time. When a person supports the seat belt law as a secondary measure, they don’t realize the federal government would one day offer grants to states that switch to primary seat belt laws. Then, now that they’ve gotten used to the idea, the switch isn’t a big deal. They never stop with making one law. There’s always some loop hole in it that they need to fill.
Another safety issue that continues to result in more laws is distracted driving. Of course, everyone who drives knows by now that there’s no such thing as distraction-free driving. But, for your own good, “they” see fit to continue to make laws to make sure you are safe. Of course, these often result in victimless “crimes.”
In Michigan, the state legislature is having a hearing on banning cell phones for teen drivers.
The bill makes use of a cell phone by drivers on their probationary license a civil infraction. It makes cell phone use a secondary offense, meaning officers can only enforce it if the driver is pulled over for another violation or is in a crash.
Of course, I think it is a shame when anyone is injured or hurt in a crash. Indeed, this is a topic close to my heart. But, I have all of the same concerns that I always do when things like this are proposed:
- What stops the cops from pulling a teenager over when he/she sees them using a cell phone and making something up about why they were pulled over? For that matter, what stops a cop from pulling over someone he/she thought was a teenager when they aren’t?
- Where does it stop? Aren’t we distracted by listening to the radio or dealing with our kids or eating food? Should all of these things be illegal, too?
- Why should this law only cover teens? I’m guessing it’s because those teens will eventually be adults. They will then be used to not having the option of talking on the phone while driving (not that I’m saying it’s a good idea), so they will accept it when there is an all-out ban for everyone.
- If someone is injured or killed as a result of anyone’s negligence, there are already laws that cover it. There is no need for new ones. People can already be charged with reckless driving or manslaughter. What is the point of adding new laws? The way I see it, it only serves to take common sense out of the equation. The fact is that talking on the phone can be dangerous, but so can talking to a passenger or eating a hamburger. And, some people are able to handle it better than others. Simply banning activities for everyone’s supposed safety is unnecessary.
As I understand it, the Michigan bill is being supported by a woman whose daughter was killed in a cell-phone related crash. My heart goes out to her. It really does. However, making a law will not (unfortunately) bring her daughter back. It also doesn’t serve to keep people safer. In fact, there are tons of unintended consequences of these cell phone laws. Sometimes drivers pull off the side of the road in an unsafe manner in order to use their phones “legally.” Sometimes people go ahead and answer the phone call just in case it is important (isn’t that why we have the phones in the first place?) and end up driving in a more distracted manner in order to hide the phone.
So, what are we doing in the land of the free today? We’re discussing what to ban next. Stay tuned…but not while driving. That’s illegal. Keep your eyes on the road.