Distract a town council member from 'nanny state' effort

  • Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I'm kicking off a text campaign aimed at Mount Pleasant Town Council members. It starts right here in the Moultrie News. Text your town council member this week and tell them not to pass a no-texting-while-driving ordinance. Then, let's see if any of them looked at our texts while they were driving. The ordinance these nanny-staters are considering passing this week isn't just against texting while driving, it prohibits the use of all hand-held devices.

So let me get this straight: if I'm using a hand-held GPS to find my way around one of the massive suburban residential developments that was built with the approval of this town council, I stand to get ticketed for distracted driving. But if I use a dash-mounted GPS, or happen to be fortunate enough to have one of those built-in kind inside my car's electronics, I am somehow less distracted while driving?

Let's see if we can wade through the complexities of this. Under such a nit-picky ordinance, which of these will be considered hand-held devices? Coffee mugs? Wristwatches? iPods? How about manual transmission – that requires the use of a hand, thereby making it “hand-held,” right? And what about your sweetiepie's hand? Some of us still do that, you know, drive around holding hands and all that. Isn't that the original “hand-held device?” What's more, if that person is right enough for you, the feeling you get from holding his or her hand can be a lot more distracting than the voice of your iPhone's Siri or your GPS. Seriously, where does this nonsense end?

I sympathize with the Mount Pleasant police if this passes. They will be put in a no-win situation if they enforce it or if they don't. Police chief Carl Ritchie said, “My officers aren't going to be out looking for every person who has a phone in their hand.” While I appreciate that bit of a concession, you have to ask from a matter of principle, why not? If it's illegal, it's illegal for everyone.

There should be no subjectivity in this. After all, this isn't Obamacare with all its exemptions and playing favorites. This is a real law, down here at the municipal level, close to the people, where neighbors talk to neighbors about who got pulled and who got the fine of up to $162.50.

This whole thing smacks of do-gooder legislation that is more about elected officials showing they care than it is about substantively and effectively eliminating driving distractions.

We have safe vehicle operation laws. What's wrong with those? Enforce them. A person is either operating a vehicle safely or he is not. Let's not get nit-picky about the source of distraction, because next thing we know, town council will be screening off the “distracting” views from the Ravenel Bridge and the Isle of Palms Connector.

Will Haynie has published more than 400 oped columns as a feature columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News when it was owned by the New York Times. His niche is as a humorous conservative. Find him on Twitter at @willhaynie or email him at Haynie.will@gmail.com.

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