E-mail Scott
Scott's Links
About the Author
Opinion Archives
Social Media:
Google Plus
Monthly Archives:

January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017

Powered by Blogger
Subscribe via RSS

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Jake's Law" and the expanding nanny state

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Should we pass more laws restricting everyone's liberty, expand the reach of government into our lives and provide government a new revenue stream because we are angry about one admittedly horrific incident where a criminal was not appropriately punished? I would hope not.

In an interview with The Atlantic back in 2009, Washington Post blogger Radley Balko said this:

If you're naming a piece of crime legislation after a crime victim, it's probably a bad law. It means you're legislating out of anger, or in reaction to public anger over a specific incident. That's generally not how good policy is made.

That is what is happening here. The outrage over what happened to Jake Owen is justified - the man who smashed into the car transporting Jake was roaring at 62 miles per hour and the driver never touched the brakes. He was distracted by a cell phone. But should everyone in Maryland be legally prohibited from using a cell phone while driving, when hundreds of thousands of people do it safely every day?


Reckless driving is already illegal. The fact that Devin McKeiver was fined a pathetic $1000 indicates that the penalties under the reckless driving law are too low and need to be increased. Targeting cell phone use addresses only one of many ways a driver can be distracted. Sometimes this can have hilarious results. See the relevant section from the Indiana Code prohibiting texting and driving:

IC 9-21-8-59
Use of telecommunications device while operating a moving motor vehicle
Sec. 59. (a) A person may not use a telecommunications device to:
(1) type a text message or an electronic mail message;
(2) transmit a text message or an electronic mail message; or
(3) read a text message or an electronic mail message;
while operating a moving motor vehicle unless the device is used in conjunction with hands free or voice operated technology, or unless the device is used to call 911 to report a bona fide emergency.

So there you have it. Under this law, it is illegal to send a text message or an e-mail while driving, but it is not illegal to play a video game. Once again, the problem is not texting in and of itself, but distracted driving generally. We are missing the forest for the trees when we pass these bans.

If we're serious about saving lives on the road, we need to stop scapegoating specific things that can be lethal distractions. Instead, we need to make sure people know they have a moral and legal obligation to keep their attention on the road. Any time any behavior causes a distraction that leads to an accident, the offender should be prosecuted. If there is a fatality, the punishment should be harsh and unforgiving - but we should not scapegoat something (such as talking on a cell phone) that can be done safely.


Note: All posts must be approved by the blog owner before they are visible on the blog.


At March 22, 2014 at 4:29 PM , Blogger Mike Newton said...  

Proponents of this law--and others like it, already enacted across the US and elsewhere--might argue that no one "uses a cell phone safely" while driving: they're simply accidents waiting to happen. As for texting and driving safely they're clearly mutually exclusive. Eyes on the phone can't be o the road--unless you're Marty Feldman.

At March 22, 2014 at 6:38 PM , Blogger Scott Tibbs said...  

It is rather silly that the law bans sending/reading texts and emails but doesn't address playing video games on your smartphone.

The way the language is written, I don't think even posting on Twitter or Facebook is banned.

In any case, reckless driving is already illegal. Texting and driving can be prosecuted under reckless driving statutes already on the books.

If the penalties for reckless driving aren't harsh enough (as they clearly were not in the case of Devin McKeiver) ramp them up - but give judges discretion so you don't wind up in a situation where you're killing a spider with a twenty pound sledgehammer.

We've already seen the damage mandatory minimums do in the War on Drugs.

Post a Comment

Below are the rules for commenting on ConservaTibbs.com.

  1. A reasonable level of civility is expected. While it is expected that controversial political and social issues may generate heated debate, there are common-sense limits of civility that will be enforced.

  2. This blog is a family-friendly site. Therefore no cursing, profanity, vulgarity, obscenity, etc. will be allowed. This is a zero-tolerance rule and will result in automatic deletion of the offending post.

  3. Anonymity has greatly coarsened discourse on the Internet, so pseudonyms are discouraged but not forbidden. That said, any direct criticism of a person by name cannot be done anonymously. If you criticize someone, you have to subject yourself to the same level of scrutiny or the comment will be deleted.

  4. Please keep your comments relevant to the topic of the post.

  5. All moderation decisions are final. I may post an explanation or I may not, depending on the situation. If you have a question or a concern about a moderation decision, e-mail me privately rather than posting in the comments.

Thank you for your cooperation.