Saturday, January 12, 2008

Legislating Common Sense

One of the things that really grinds my gears is the tendency of legislatures to put off the really important things (health care reform, tax reform, immigration reform, etc) in favor of some unutterably stupid things that ought to fall under the heading of common sense. Of course, what we used to call common sense isn't so common any more...which breeds opportunities for useless legislators to generate useless legislation.

The most recent example comes from my own Commonwealth of Virginia. A headline in the Metro section of today's Washington Post reads, "Virginia Considers Ban on Driving While Texting."

Oh, for Pete's sake, can we get real, here?

The last time I looked, using a telephone or Blackberry to send or read text messages requires the use of both hands. If both hands are on the device, how is the car being steered? How stupid do you have to be to zip down the highway at speed, using both hands and devoting your attention to working your Blackberry, instead of watching the traffic around you?

I've often griped that you can't legislate common sense. If people are going to be stupid, they're going to be stupid even if Section Blah-de-Blah of the city/state/federal code makes it illegal to do so. The mental giants who tried to cash the dead man's check with the dead man riding along in an office chair weren't distracted by things like laws against check fraud. And people who thunder that laws requiring them to wear helmets while riding motorcycles are an infringement of their rights probably wouldn't incur noticeable brain damage in an accident.

The annual death toll from avoidable highway accidents in this country is appalling and getting worse. Not a week goes by that I don't nearly get run down crossing an intersection by some driver more interested in his cell phone conversation than in the action of driving. It's already illegal in Virginia for people under 18 to talk, send text messages, or take pictures with a cell phone while driving (but only if they've already been stopped for some other infraction)...but simple observation shows that it hasn't made much difference in stupid behavior.

Okay, this is a rant, and I apologize. Sort of. Really stupid things really irritate me, and outrages against simple common sense are the worst of all. I long for the day that well-meaning but foolish legislators stop wasting time trying to legislate against stupidity and start taking on the real problems of the nation.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

LOL! blogs were invented for ranting :)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Common sense would never get approved!

Serina Hope said...

I love your ranting. I am always like "YEAH! That pisses me off too!!" I get to get upset about things that I haven't even thought about... :)
I NEED YOUR INPUT ON MY MOST RECENT POST. You always have a good way of looking at things. Thanks.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

How can anyone text and drive? That scares the hell out of me. I can hardly walk and chew gum at the same time!


Sue said...

Virginia, like most states, probably already has a law that covers this. In PA, driving laws state that both hands must be on the wheel (at 10 and 2) if you are using an automatic transmission vehicle, and one hand on the wheel while the other operates the gear shift if in a manual.

NY created redundant laws when they enacted the ban on operating hand-held phones while driving. I am with you on this, it's stupid. I think most legislators fail to realize that the laws already exist to make this action illegal. What needs done is enforcement of these laws already on the books.