Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Let's Just Make It Easy And Raise The Driving Age To 30

Here's one of those "road to hell is paved with good intentions" type of stories.

A Pennsylvania legislator has come up with a way to (supposedly) protect teenage drivers in the first couple of years of their licentiousness...uh...I mean certification. She's a safety advocate and is sponsoring a bill ostensibly promoting adolescent driver safety in PA. Sounds nice, right? Well, read this:

...Mrs. Watson has written legislation, House Bill 163, aimed at reducing "distractions" caused by passengers inside a car that can divert a junior driver's attention and lead to accidents. She also wants to give police broader power to stop cars driven by 16- and 17-year-olds and make sure they are buckled up.
Here's what I have a problem with:
  • aimed at reducing "distractions" caused by passengers -- How? What constitutes a distraction, and how is anyone going to notice it from outside the car? Does a passenger need to be jumping around with arms flailing about? What will give a cop a clue that someone in the car is causing a "distraction"?
  • give police broader power -- This should disqualify any politician from holding office in a free country.
  • to stop cars driven by 16- and 17-year-olds and make sure they are buckled up -- How are the cops going to tell if a driver is 16 or 17 without pulling him/her over and checking the driver's license? This is going to give the police fiat to pull over anyone under suspicion of being young.
Oh, check this out:
Her bill, which also would increase the number of hours of instruction that a junior driver must get, took a major step forward yesterday, getting the unanimous approval of the state House Transportation Committee.
Stupidity is institutional.

Oh, and about that whole "reducing distractions' business:
Limit to one the number of nonrelated passengers a 16- or 17-year-old driver can have in his/her car, such as friends, fellow athletes, school mates etc. The one-passenger limit doesn't apply to siblings, however, meaning a junior driver could take two or more brothers or sisters to a store or school or other destination.
More problems. They're trying to micromanage our driving. You can take your little brother to his school. You can drive your little sister to the mall. But what constitutes an acceptable "other destination"? Are these things written into the bill? Suppose you're 17 and you're taking your younger sibling to a movie show. What if a cop pulls you over and doesn't like your choice of movie? Don't scoff; some municipal authorities are like that.
Increase from 50 to 65 hours the amount of driving instruction that must be given to a junior driver. It must include five hours of driving in inclement weather and 10 hours of night driving.
This is probably the only good part of the bill. Perhaps a Pittsburgh provision would be in order: half-a-dozen charges into the Fort Pitt Tunnel at 50 to 65 MPH.

Wait, how is the state going to know whether the student driver has been driving in the snow or in the dark? Take the parent or the student at his/her word? Or issue surveillance equipment with each learner's permit? Down a dark and dangerous path this will lead us.
Make it a "primary offense" if a police officer finds that a 16- or 17-year-old driver isn't wearing a seat belt. In Pennsylvania now, police cannot stop a car if they merely see the driver or passengers without a seat belt. Only after a car is stopped for another reason -- say, speeding or running a red light -- can the officer cite a driver who isn't wearing a belt.
There's a big "equality before the law" issue at stake here. For some crimes, juveniles can be tried as adults; for others, they are treated less harshly. This bill punishes underage drivers more severely for not using seat belts than it does adult drivers. That's upside-down, inconsistent, insane and tyrannical. Speaking of tyranny...
The state police commissioner, Col. Jeffrey Miller, has urged the Legislature to make driving without a seat belt a primary offense for all drivers. The Legislature has been hesitant to go that far, fearing a possible backlash from adult drivers and voters.
Damn right there will be a backlash. The whole bill is reason enough for a backlash. If the Legislature has any sense, it will tell the head jackboot to shove his primary offense up his ass. In a few years, my kids are going to be old enough to drive, and I would rather not have to tell them that the law doesn't apply to them the same way it applies to grown-ups. That might encourage them to take a dim view of politics and government.

Which, you know...wouldn't be such a bad thing.

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