New driving laws steering in the wrong direction

Apparently, the “small government” conservative state of Texas feels as if driving isn’t hard enough without a lot of laws to worry about. In case you haven’t heard, Texas just passed some new traffic laws that went into effect Tuesday. Two that caught my attention include banning drivers from using handheld wireless devices in a school zone and that everyone in a car, regardless of age, must now wear a seat belt.

First, let’s talk about cell phones in school zones. Don’t we already have enough laws dictating how people must drive through school zones? I know there is already a speed limit of 20 mph, and there’s always a Wal-Mart greeter on every corner that the school calls a “crossing guard”. Do we really need more laws?

Of course, people will say, “Michael, don’t you care about the children?” Well, of course I do. I have a little brother and sister of my own. However, I think the laws we have in place now are sufficient enough. If schools want to ask parents to not use their cell phones while going through school zones, that’s fine, but we really don’t need to give tickets out for it.

While we are at it, why are we stopping at cell phones? Let’s ban changing the radio, eating while driving, talking while driving, yelling at the kids in the back and endless things that could potentially distract us from driving. We can’t try to micromanage everything that people do in their car that might get them in an accident. If we did that, everyone would get a ticket.

The law about seat belts is even worse. This is one of the greatest examples of the frog in the boiling water scenario. Take away a little freedom bit by bit and people eventually give in. Ignoring the fact that there are many studies that say that buckled drivers are also more likely to get in accidents because they feel safer in their cars, I think it’s silly to tell full-grown adults that they must now wear their seat belts in the car. I thought my parents did that when I was a kid. I’m not surprised, though, because people seem to want to let government become the paternalistic figure in our lives. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Of course we all know another motive for passing more road laws: to line the pockets of police departments without getting blamed for raising taxes. I’m more than sure that many people aren’t going to hear or remember these laws at first, and when they don’t, officers will be more than happy to write them a ticket. (By the way, police officers actually get paid overtime when they show up to court to defend a ticket. Next time you get one, I wouldn’t count on the officer not showing up.)

The most important thing we need to remember is that laws that we do have need to be simple and use common sense. Although, I’ve never known a politician that is too good at doing that.

Michael Lauck is a broadcast journalism major from Houston.