Few things are as scary as a car accident, yet most of us take that risk every single day, putting our lives and the lives of our families on the line so we can get where need to be. We know that in an instant, out of the blue, a decision we or another driver may make could alter or end our lives forever.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many people are in favor of tougher and tougher driver regulations. When tragedies strike, the impetus is toward legislators to “fix” things, to pass laws to “ensure” the horrible thing never, ever happens again. We see this phenomenon play out every time there’s a mass-shooting, of course, so it’s no surprise that the public thinks every problem on the roadways can be fixed by passing more draconian laws. It’s human nature to want safety and security, and far too many are willing to trade their liberties for it.
Of course, credible arguments and effective legislation that actually help can sometimes be made, as is the case with laws and public relations campaigns against drunk driving, but more often than not legislators and enforcers become guilty of extreme overreach.
Like when Minnesota driver Lindsey Krieger was pulled over and ticketed for drinking ... coffee.
Yes, you read that right - drinking coffee. I know, you’d think there would be enough to do, what with the rapists, murderers, and even drunk drivers running around all over the place, but apparently what keeps this Minnesota cop up at night is women drinking coffee while driving.
Alcoholic beverages I can understand, but coffee? Really?
Sgt. Mike Ernster of the St. Paul Police Department defended the officer’s actions, saying, “Inattentive driving relates to anything that takes your attention away from those obligations of every driver, which is to pay attention.”
And here you were all this time thinking distracted driving meant texting, putting on makeup, or playing Candy Crush.
I wonder if, while driving, Sgt. Ernster has ever used his radio to communicate with central dispatch, or changed a radio station, or operated his radar, or turned around to tell some loudmouth prisoner to shut his piehole, or, heaven forbid, drank some coffee while eating his donut? I wonder if looking around to see if other drivers are putting cups to their lips constitutes distracted driving? I know that would certainly take MY eyes off my “driver obligations.”
Oh, so it’s OK for cops to do drive “distracted,” but not for the general public? How about the hundreds of crashes caused by distracted police officers in Metro Denver alone, over 300 in the past three years?
Most states have laws against texting while driving, and I think most reasonable people can agree with the bulk of those. The problem is when enforcers take these laws to absurd lengths, as appears to be the case in Minnesota. The law simply bans texting while driving, but includes a statute about reckless or careless driving that is summed up thusly by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, “Distracted drivers can be ticketed for reckless or careless driving when their actions demonstrate a disregard for the safety or rights of others.”
It’s unclear what statute the ticketing officer used to ticket Ms. Krieger, and if he applied it correctly or not, but we do know there is a push to increase the scope of distracted driving laws. AAA Oklahoma defines what they consider distracted driving in this article:
“Drivers who change a radio station, talk to kids in the back seat or take a sip of soda all have something in common: Their attention is being taken off the road … Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the task of driving and includes texting; using a cell phone; eating and drinking; talking to passengers; grooming; reading; using a navigation system; adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player.”
OK, as a libertarian-type I can reluctantly go with reading, grooming, and stuff that actually takes one’s eyes off the road for significant periods of time, but talking to passengers? Adjusting the radio? Taking a drink? Are these people serious? Is the majority of the public really in favor of outlawing something EVERY SINGLE ONE of us do EVERY DAY?
People aren’t robots. We’re imperfect vessels. We all take a risk every day by driving on the roads and, while we certainly should have reasonable restrictions on what drivers can and cannot do behind the wheel, expecting everyone to stare face-forward at the road every second of our drives is not only unrealistic, but can lead to a whole other problem - sleeping behind the wheel!
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