Sometimes it takes me a couple days to get my mind around Rick Perry. For the last several days I have been pondering the governor's veto of the Texas no-text bill. As passed by both houses of the Legislature, the measure would have made it illegal to carry out text messaging while driving.
Perry killed the bill at the last minute because he said it was an attempt by government to "micromanage the behavior of adults." So I have been driving around asking myself what that even means.
Obviously Perry is not saying government should not manage the behavior of adults, as in the laws against murder. Just as obviously, if we are going to give him any credit at all, it's possible for government to go too far, as in a law against nose-picking while driving.
So what we're talking about is not an absolute but a line. Where does the line fall between OK government managing, as in no murder, and not-OK micromanaging, as in nose-picking?
I would have thought a no-texting law fell on the OK side. In other words, it should be OK for government to manage texting while driving. But then I would have to explain why. Is it really a problem?
I know there are statistics out there for X many people who cause wrecks every year because of texting, but I don't know that I really trust any of them. You can't test people for texting after the wreck the way you can for crystal meth.
Last year the National Safety Council released numbers to show that 1.4 million people a year crash their cars while talking on cell phones while 200,000 get in wrecks while texting. I don't think I believe any of that.
For me it always comes down to personal experience and common sense. Now whenever I come to full stop in my car, I have to gaze around the intersection to see if any drivers are going to do a cell phone drift. You know what I mean: the wide slow wobbly entry into the intersection accompanied by feverish arm gesticulation meaning the driver is talking to a relative who has just decided on the spur of the moment to buy a red Corvette.
You can die for that crap, right? That guy not only doesn't see you. He can't see anything but the theoretical Corvette. He's driving in another dimension on another planet, and you are but a cloud of nano-particles.
But the cell phone drift is nowhere close to as bad as the texter's pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey acceleration. You have to watch for it now all the time in the rear-view mirror. It's some kind of weird neural connection between thumb and foot. Something about being totally concentrated on a tiny key pad and trying to press the keys quickly with your thumbnails causes people to jam their feet down on the accelerator.
When I am sitting in traffic unable to move and watching the person in the rear-view mirror text, with his or her car taking the tell-tale odd little jumps forward every few seconds, I do want my government to intervene.
Why should it be the government that intervenes? Let me ask you something. Who else did you have in mind? What, peer pressure? Not in Texas. Everybody's afraid of getting shot.
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So here is where I need some help. I wonder if people here have any kind of metric they might offer for what's nanny and what's not. What's the difference? When is it OK for the state to meddle, and when should the state butt out? You tell me.
Should we be allowed to play chess while driving, for example? What about finger-painting? Was it a mistake to outlaw guzzling from a gin bottle while driving? You tell me.
By the way, just so you can place me on this scale, I would actually be in favor of a no-nose-picking law. That's one where I also do anonymous loud horn honking, because I can't stand it, and I wouldn't mind seeing people sent to jail.
Here's the other thing. Perry is so weird, you never can tell. He thought it was great to authorize the state to invade women's uteri with the new sonogram law. Who knows? He might even be with me on nose-picking. I wonder.