Sorry Mommy Minnesota, I’m still going to text and drive

Our government officially decided we can’t handle patting our heads and rubbing our stomachs yesterday. I got the news last night at about 8:30 p.m. last night via Twitter, a mobile social network I frequently use when driving.

According to the KARE 11 story about the bill passing:

If you’re caught composing or sending a text message while you’re behind the wheel of a moving car you can be pulled over and ticketed. Even reading incoming messages could lead to a citation.

Judging from the Pioneer Press article about the bill, it was passed using anecdotal evidence that 1) people can’t handle texting while driving AND 2) it’s a problem worth legislating against, despite the lack of solid research across a wide range of demographics and psychographics.

In fact, the article only lists stats about only teens. Of course teens are distracted drivers…they are also minors, so they are pretty much fair game for passing both disapproval and legislation against. That’s fine with me. But all the news articles and broadcast segments I’ve seen interview adults on the street or in their cars and ask them if they are good drivers when they text and drive. Pretty scientific stuff to base a broad, sweeping bill on, huh?

But what about the general population, some of whom may actually be able to handle reading and replying to e-mails, surfing the web, tweeting and sending text messages? Mommy Minnesota has decided to set some new rules for us, and I’m sorry, but I’m not going to obey them.

In February 2007 I wrote a post here at MB called “I can drive and talk on my cell without crashing” in response to an eerily similar, albeit more stringent, 2007 nanny state bill that would double the fines of any moving violation if the driver was on a cell phone at the time.

Here are some highlights from that post that perfectly reflect the sentiment I’m feeling today:

Remember in grade school when the teacher had to teach the class at the pace of the dumbest student? It slowed down the rest of your class and impaired those who were fast learners and could easily handle the challenges of the day. I know many of my liberal friends don’t see the issue with this. They believe it’s the government’s responsibility to keep us safe from ourselves. But I wish to stress the importance and inevitability of the slippery slope of government mandates on our private lives.

Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 era, our society is relying more and more on the big brother government to “keep us safe.” California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia each have enacted a jurisdiction-wide ban on driving while talking on cell phones. Six states (Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) allow localities to ban cell phone use. Only eight smarter states than Minnesota (Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah) prohibit localities from banning cell phone use. (then I gave a breakdown of state laws and legislation)…

At what point are we legislating to the lowest IQ of our population? At what point does society either evolve or operate outside the boundaries of the idiots in our society? …

My biggest point is that sure, use of cell phones are distracting. But look at Vermont, which is considering a measure to ban eating, drinking, smoking, reading, writing, personal grooming, playing an instrument, interacting with pets or cargo and possibly even scratching an itch while driving.

Sometimes the freedom to be an idiot is preferred to the handcuffs of what our government thinks we handle.

While I don’t doubt there are people who cannot handle texting while driving, I do not believe it’s the government’s responsibility to GIVE or TAKE AWAY that right.

Minnesota has now become only the third state (after Washington and New Jersey) to pass this ban on texting and driving, and since it was only based on anecdotal accounts and the gut reaction of a dying generation intimidated by 1) technology and 2) a rising culture of electronically connected multitaskers, there’s no way to measure if it was effective. Driving legislation in Minnesota can only get more restrictive from here, and that just isn’t okay with me.

As early as this afternoon, I’m going to be back on the roads, skimming my e-mail, tweeting and reading while I drive. I’ll pay the ticket. It’s worth the price of freedom.

And what are your thoughts, my fellow Minnesota drivers?

19 Comments so far

  1. yoshi on May 24th, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

    I do not believe it’s the government’s responsibility to GIVE or TAKE AWAY that right. </blockquote

    Driving is not a right. It is not enshrined in the constitution. Its a highly regulated form of transportation that can and is taken away from people every day. The legislature filled with people elected by you has every right to put restrictions on it and the courts have backed em up every time. Don’t like the laws – don’t drive.

    Saying that this is another silly law based on bad information that just allows the cops another reason to pull you over. I find it almost as idiotic as your post. Almost.

  2. yoshi on May 24th, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

    bah – forgot the closing tag…

  3. maxsparber on May 24th, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

    What are my thoughts? That you are mistaken in believing that you have a right to be irresponsible and dangerous, despite the fact that it might hurt someone else. I don’t think you take your responsibility as a driver seriously enough, and I think you might want to consider that whatever you think vitally needs to be texted in the 15 minutes you are in the car can probably wait until your ride is over.

    There is no constitutional right to do whatever the hell you want in your car — it is heavily regulated, and for a good reason. It is the most dangerous thing we do every day. And I guess you must think you are some sort of fantastic driver, but, in my experience, that’s a misapprehension shared almost universally by bad drivers. But thank you for making my morning commute just that much more dangerous for me in the name of some ill-conceived and ill-defined sense of injured liberty.

  4. davep on May 25th, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

    If someone’s driving unsafely because they’re distracted by their cell-phone, texting, kids, putting on makeup, or whatever, cite their ass for unsafe driving. There are already statutes on the books to cover that.

    But hey, pass just a few more laws and we’ll all be criminals.

  5. yoder on May 25th, 2008 @ 11:27 pm

    "But hey, pass just a few more laws and we’ll all be criminals."

    I understand the sentiment, but it is misplaced in this case. New technology provides dangerous distractions that previous generations did not have. This legislation is simply trying to catch up to today’s distractions.

    If someone wants to wrap their car around a pole and kill themselves while texting, reading a paper or putting on makeup, more power to them, let’s film it and put it on Youtube. If you put others in danger (or unnecessarily increase the danger you put others in) that’s another matter entirely. It still amazes me that so many people treat driving as an inalienable right, when the opposite is true.

    The implied argument that "I’ve not been in an accident while texting, so I can do whatever I want while driving" is gradeschool logic and has no place in the real world.

  6. gerg (g3rg) on May 26th, 2008 @ 9:58 am

    What do I think? I think you’re a goddamn moron and can only hope you don’t hurt somebody.

    I also think that the strain of "libertarianism" you exhibit should be a diagnosable medical condition, its anti-social tendencies bordering on the sociopathic.

  7. kevinfromminneapolis on May 26th, 2008 @ 10:45 am

    New technologies require new laws all the time. If not, it wouldn’t be illegal to solicit sex from a minor over the Internet.

  8. Erica M (ericam) on May 26th, 2008 @ 10:59 am

    If someone’s driving unsafely because they’re distracted by their cell-phone, texting, kids, putting on makeup, or whatever, cite their ass for unsafe driving. There are already statutes on the books to cover that.

    That’s my opinion on the matter.

    There’s clearly inconsistency in legislation between texting and talking on the phone. How do you know if I’m texting or simply dialing? Does it matter? I think a law targeting texting specifically is overkill.

    Plus I think there’s more important things the legislature could be doing.

  9. lasg on May 26th, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

    Oh my God this dude is serious. EricaM, it’s nice of you to offer some halfhearted support for your fellow blogger, but really I’d prefer that people didn’t text OR dial while they’re driving. Unexpected, life-or-death things on the road can happen in the split second that you’re looking at your godforsaken phone. Fortunately most of the respondents here seem to know that by now.

    In any case, I’m glad that "Mommy Minnesota" is smarter than the average blogger, and I hope this poster gets his license revoked. Soon.

    By the way, I like to read Harry Potter books while I’m driving. I swear, I’m super safe about it. I hope that’s cool with everybody.

  10. kevinfromminneapolis on May 26th, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

    By the way, this was not passed as a stand alone bill. It was about 15 lines in a large omnibus policy bill.

  11. Erica M (ericam) on May 27th, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

    EricaM, it’s nice of you to offer some halfhearted support for your fellow blogger.

    I’m just saying that I think the issue is addressed under existing "unsafe driving" statutes. If you’re swerving while using your phone or any other device or grabbing fries out of a bag or your purse off the passenger seat floor or shoving the binky back in your baby’s mouth or changing the DVD they’re watching in the backseat or whatever, then you should get pulled over.

    If you’re clearly not paying attention to what you’re doing, whatever it is, and demonstrating unsafe behavior then you should get pulled over. Don’t need a whole new law for it.

  12. Phil (philscbx) on May 28th, 2008 @ 5:31 am

    I don’t have the slightest issue with those with talent of multitasking @ mach II.

    What needs to be straightened out in a real fkg hurry is when they are holding up traffic while on the cell in the left lane. Clearly having no idea to factors out their windows or mirrors.

    For them to get a fkg clue to move to slow lane is when they find all four tires have exploded.

    I travel all over the world, and the US and women are the main cause of this crisis.
    While on the cell, I witness them slamming on the brakes for no reason, upsetting the whole system that was smooth because they panic with no regards to others from following too close.

    Try this one day on roads in Europe, and if you think you can slug along in the left lane, shoulder to shoulder blocking traffic, you will be doing so against the law for one.

    Or be run off the road by semi’s or ?

    Even if you think your cruising well above the limit, you better move or else.

  13. min_jimn on May 28th, 2008 @ 11:04 pm

    But seriously folks, aren’t "the US and women" the cause of most crises? Am I right or am I right?

  14. Erica M (ericam) on May 29th, 2008 @ 8:24 am


  15. chuckumentary on May 29th, 2008 @ 7:37 pm

    how is it that i’ve never been a registered commenter here before? or maybe it was a different email… ANYWHO

    i am with erica and greg on this one. sometimes it’s actually easier to text something than call, since i know the keyboard. i also glance at driving direction on my phone, for example. ideally these things would be incorporated into the car in a HUD or other safe, useful fashion.

  16. aliecat on May 29th, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

    I think it’s pretty dumb to text and drive as I think it’s pretty dumb to do anything that can take your attention away from the road (speaking as a chick who dropped a cigarette in her lap on the road as a teen). Does it need to be legislated against? Meh…I’d say maybe not as a primary offense, but that’s just my opinion.

    Also, in some states it’s technically illegal to operate or even have your radio on while driving…just thought I’d throw that out there.

  17. yoder on May 30th, 2008 @ 6:14 am

    This kind of legislation is not written for the 80% of drivers who pay attention to their primary responsibility (driving). It is not written for the 80% who understand that driving is a privilege and a responsibility. Those 80% are simply being restricted because of the actions of the other 20%. You can argue the efficacy of such legislation, because we all know that the 20% will do what they want when they want with no concern for the safety of others no matter what laws are on the books. But to not address these concerns in legislation would be even worse and would lend an air of legitimacy to the 20%.

  18. yoder on May 30th, 2008 @ 6:15 am

    If everyone drove responsibly, there would be no need for such laws.

  19. Texting, putting on mascara and eating a cheeseburger. At once! « lindsi (the write design girl) (pingback) on June 12th, 2008 @ 12:05 am

    […] the Minnesotans “intimidated by a rising culture of electronically connected multitaskers, (greg @ Metblogs)” the law isn’t going to inspire change in my behavior. But don’t worry, […]

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