Conservative Political Commentary

...usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nanny State Goes After States Over Distracted Drivers


From a Fox News article by Nina Donaghy, 10/01/09: “Texting, using hand-held and hands-free cell phones, talking to passengers and even programming your GPS while driving can all be life-threatening distractions on the road, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and others said at a national Distracted Driving Summit Thursday.” [1]

LaHood said President Obama has just signed an executive order forbidding texting while driving for federal employees driving on government business. The administration wants to crack down on the aforementioned distractions for all drivers. The article reports that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) wants the auto and phone industries to support his bill requiring states to either forbid texting while driving or face the loss of one-fourth of their federal highway funding [2]

OK, we shouldn’t be texting while driving, and shouldn’t be distracted by other things. But where does the federal government draw the line on what is a federal issue and what isn’t? Apparently seizing any opportunity to regulate the lives of the American people, the Senator is promoting this bill, and has even given it a cute acronym/name, ALERT, for Avoiding Life Endangering and Reckless Texting, according to the article. That should make people want to support it.

This is right in line with the liberal, nanny-state mentality that believes that if anyone points out a serious problem of some kind, it’s the federal government’s responsibility to “do something about it.” This is an example of how the federal government gets involved in so many things that are properly and traditionally the domain of state and local authorities. The statistics on accidents and deaths caused by texting while driving (cited in the article) are available to and studied by all state departments of public safety, and numerous other agencies, non-profit organizations, insurance companies, etc., etc.

It seems that state and local authorities are quite aware of the problems and are at work on dealing with them. Various localities have restricted cell phone use by drivers and more rules are being considered. But that is not enough to suit Sen. Schumer, who thinks the federal government, specifically himself, should determine who may do what, and what the (serious) consequences will be for a state’s failure to comply. And he has them, in general, over a barrel, because most states can’t afford to give up a cent of federal money.

They don’t need Schumer’s bill to force them into anything. The federal government seems to have no respect for the state authorities and views them as subordinate units of the federal government, which they are not. Someone should be reading the Tenth Amendment, of which Schumer’s bill would be a gross violation.

It’s hard to question the motives of people who just want to “save lives” by whatever means. But, as usual, the U.S. Constitution is being trampled underfoot by power-seeking federal officials. What about chewing gum while driving? It’s just a matter of time, I suppose, until we get a law prohibiting that, too, on penalty of giving up another fourth of highway money.

I may have to send a text message to my congresswoman about this

[1] Nina Donaghy, “LaHood Pledges to Crack Down on Distracted Driving, Warns of Fatal Consequences,” Fox News.com at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/10/01/lahood-pledges-crack-distracted-driving-warns-fatal-consequences/

[2] Ibid.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

2 comments:

A Reason-Based Initiative said...

I can sympathize with the argument that legislation affecting the legality of texting while driving should be left up to the states, but I can't quite understand why the same conservatives who supported Bush's warrantless wiretapping and systematic torturing of detainees decry the "nanny state" when Obama takes away their right to text message behind the wheel of a car.

Eddie said...

Thanks for the comment. I don't think "systematic torturing" took place. Instances of abuse were dealt with. Waterboarding was done very few times and is not torture, and yielded information that prevented deadly terrorist attacks.
As for warrantless wiretaps, these were not used except on communications involving a foreign party considered a potential threat.

I understand these were controversial issues. I think that stopping terrorism justified their use. Also, there weren't a lot of lawsuits from people alleging harm done by the wiretaps.

Of course it's quite a different matter from the texting issue. Obama's main focus seems to be on domestic policy, trying to take authority over as many things as possible.