Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wisconsin bans text messaging: an object lesson in pre-crime

This article exemplifies many of the processes by which bad laws are rationalized:

MADISON, Wis. — All Wisconsin drivers, not just teenagers, would be banned from sending text messages while driving under a bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday.

Lawmakers approved a bill 27-5 that would prohibit drivers from using a text message device such as a cell phone, I-Phone, or Blackberry. The penalties would be between $20 and $400, the same as disorderly driving.

The ban passed after lawmakers balked at the initial proposal affecting only drivers under age 18. Some senators said if texting were dangerous for young drivers, it was dangerous for all motorists.
Because there is no correlation between inexperience and probability of collision.

Here, there is a false appeal to equality, that is, by reasoning that unequal things (more experience and less experienced drivers) are equal. Driving at freeway speeds may not be safe for many 17 year olds but is safe for most 37 year olds who drive. Hence, it clearly follows that we should ban all speeds above 35 mph.

"Why are we resistant to protect all of the population regardless of their age?" asked Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah.
Here's the age-old "protection" argument - how can anyone be opposed to saving life? Since it is obvious that this bill saves lives (it is?), anyone who opposes it is opposing the saving of lives. And who can be against saving lives?

A similar proposal in the Assembly has been introduced but not yet heard in committee.

Opponents argued that texting, just like putting on makeup or searching for loose change, is already covered under the state's disorderly driving law.
We are going to make it doubly illegal! It's like those catch-all charges like "obstruction of justice", "resisting arrest," "interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties" that can be tacked onto any charge just to add more jail time or increase fines or both.

It will also be nearly impossible for a police officer to determine if someone is texting, said Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn.
All he has to do is give his "professional judgment".

"There's a limit as to how many laws you need before we have laws on the books that are unenforceable," he said.
Who cares about enforceability? Next on the agenda... outlawing poverty! Enforcement of laws is immaterial to the question of showing properly proscriptive gusto.

Supporters said a law would get the public's attention.
Exactly, since that is the purpose of laws... to get the public's attention. Of course, the public doesn't pay attention to laws that they don't get ticketed or fined under. So, this is a clear threat that they intend to issue plenty of tickets under this law.

"We all know that texting while driving is dangerous behavior," said Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona.
Maybe for pampered lawmakers whose driving experience amounts to the trip to the nearby 7/11 at midnight when their paid driver isn't available.

"But if it's illegal, most of us will change our behavior."
Yes, because people predictably stop doing whatever the government outlaws. *AHEM*pot*AHEM*

The Senate's vote comes as momentum increases nationwide to address the problem of distracted driving.

The first laws banning text messaging while driving passed in New Jersey and Washington in 2007. Since then, nine states have passed laws banning texting for young drivers and 19 states have banned it for everyone, regardless of age, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

States may be feeling pressure from Congress to act as well. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrats are pushing legislation that would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle — or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding.
And here's where inflation is so important - the Federal government is able to impose a government mono-culture because it can always threaten to cut off Federal grants, which are greater than state revenues exactly because the Federal government has the Federal Reserve to print up the extra money, whereas the state governments have to live only off what they can tax directly from their people.

Those who are pushing the laws say it's all about safety.

Nearly 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured last year in vehicle crashes connected to driver distraction, including texting, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
0.002% of the US population. Not that these 6,000 lives don't matter, I just fail to see how a) texting is what killed them and b) a law prohibiting texting will save them. Certainly, there must be rules on the road, especially high speed roadways, but methinks this has more to do with empowering cops to tack on an extra $100 fine for having your cell phone in hand when pulled over for whatever. It's just a revenue generator.

In July, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that when drivers of heavy trucks texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater. Dialing a cell phone and using or reaching for an electronic device increased risk of collision about six times in cars and trucks, according to the university research.
This is bogus - people who choke on their soda are also many times more likely to be involved in a collision, so I suppose we should outlaw choking on sodas? The point is not that texting while driving is not a risky behavior, of course it is. But so is driving at all. Or drinking water. The point is whether individual drivers or the Federal government is best suited to determine when and to what extent the risk should be engaged in. Perhaps I'm rushing my pregnant wife to the hospital and text her OB. This could contribute to saving a life. The Federal government has no idea whether I made a good choice in texting or not texting. But they do know what generates ticket revenues.

The sponsor of the Wisconsin bill, Sen. Alan Lasee, R-DePere, said he was motivated to introduce his proposal after a 2006 car crash in New York that killed five recent high school graduates. Police didn't blame cell phone use for the wreck, but records showed a succession of calls and text messages on the driver's phone minutes before the crash.
"I think this will certainly go a long way to saving innocent lives," Lasee said.
Anecdotal evidence is, always, the most powerful tool of persuasion in the politician's arsenal. The actual, social importance of some policy is irrelevant if you have a heart-wrenching story to tell.

Emergency responders, as well as licensed amateur radio operators and those texting to report an emergency, would be exempt.
So, how does the police officer determine whether someone is "texting to report an emergency" - like he's going to peer through the driver window, go "oh, he's handling an emergency, I don't need to pull him over." Sure.

This is just so childish.

This is the second time in as many years that the state Senate has passed a texting ban. Last year, the Senate passed a ban for all drivers but it died in the Assembly.

This year's bill has broad support including the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, which represents some wireless networks in the state, AAA Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance and the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association.

No one was registered in opposition.
Once something becomes politically unopposable (the opposition can be made to look to be opposed to "saving lives"), there will be no opposition.

1 comment:

Maroussia said...

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