Law making is serious business. I’m constantly amazed at the ability of some lawmakers, on the left and the right, to intellectually justify the laws they wish to pass. Here is one example, from Vermont. Apparently Vermont citizens cannot drive and kill themselves and others at very high rates--especially while using their cell phones. Now don’t get me wrong, distracted driving is a problem. As a guy who rides a motorcycle I can tell you that many people drive while unconscious. Seriously. I’ve seen folks reading news papers while driving, putting on makeup, smoking pot, and yelling at kids.........all while swerving down the rode. I get it.
On the other hand, there are lots of people who drive safely while using their cell phones. I know we are not supposed to mention this fact as some kid out there may think “hey, he said some people can drive OK while using their cell phones” and do just that. The horror.
Anyway, back to the legislator. What happens if you pass an unenforceable law.....say a law against using your cell phone while driving? How is this unenforceable, you ask? Well, how do you prove someone was tooling down the road on their phone? A cop may see it happen......but that can be disputed on many grounds.
Here is how you do it. You pass a low that allows cops to read the contents of your cell phone when they pull you over. You get that? You write a law that allows warrantless searches.
Read the thinking of this lawmaker.....who equates having a cell phone visible in your car (not locked away) with having an open container of beer.
At one level I’m mocking this guy but at another level I want to point out the thinking process that justifies infringements on our rights.
I have another suggestion for those comfortable with handing your cell phone over to the police. Why not use our technology to place cameras and recording devices in our cars? Cops could either access the recordings or, even better, they could enter our license plate number into a computer terminal and then access the cameras in our cars while we drive down the road--all without our knowledge. Think of it: Cop in a Car.
John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi
Professors of Crime and Criminology