One of them is the texting ban while driving in Ohio that Gov. John R. Kasich signed June 1. I certainly agree that texting while driving is extremely dangerous, and I understand that the purpose of the legislation is to prevent texting more than prosecute it; but aspects of this law still do not make sense to me:
- One obvious issue is that texting while driving is a primary offense for under-18s, but a secondary offense for 18 and older. This means, in theory, that a police officer can stop a teenager for committing no violation except the texting, while he has to find some other offense for an adult who does so. Question: how is the police officer to know whether or not a driver is over 18 before he stops the car?
- Secondly, this kind of law enforcement is a bit like hate crime legislation. Texting is not itself an offense. The offense is not being in control of your vehicle. We already have laws for reckless driving. Why do we need another one for driving while distracted (or for that matter, drunk, drugged — or to carry it further, with the car stereo on loud enough to rock the whole neighborhood)? The key is to teach people to drive safely and to show them why it is dangerous to drive when impaired. And if they do not focus on the road while driving, that we have severe penalties against reckless driving, vehicular homicide, and so on.
The other example, which takes the nanny state idea to a new level, is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal May 31 to ban the sale of sugary soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces (as reported in the New York Daily News). Mayor Bloomberg justifies the ban on the basis of public health statistics showing that 58 percent of New York City adults and nearly 40 percent of city public school students are obese or overweight.
David Frum at CNN calls this legislation “visionary.” I call it ridiculous.The proposal exempts milkshakes (which can contain up to 500 calories each) and diet sodas. And anyway, as New York resident Helen O’Connor reminds us, “If I can’t buy one big drink, I’ll buy two smaller ones.”