Don't Rush Me
Texting ban is the 'fuzzy dice' of modern law
Making laws for law's sake
July 21, 2010 - So, by the time this column “hits” the streets, 21 days will have come and gone since the brainiacs in Lansing passed a law banning the practice of texting, “while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in this state.”
Ever the pain in the posterior, before 8 a.m. this past Monday, I phoned the police chiefs in the cozy hamlets of Lake Orion, Clarkston and Oxford. I wanted to know if anybody on their staffs had issued a ticket for texting. If so, how many.
Lake Orion: Zero.
Since this wasn’t enough to write about, my line of questioning evolved: Is dialing my phone the same is texting because I am doing the same thing, pushing buttons on my cell phone?
I got a lot of “uhms” and “ahhs.” Not because intelligence quotients of the local constabulary is of low stature -- on the contrary. These individuals are now in charge of enforcing yet another well-intentioned, yet misguided law foisted upon them.
Chief Mike “Nemo” Neymanowski in Oxford, towards the end of our early morning conversation said, “You’ve really got my head spinning now. There are a lot of questions that can come up.”
He then rattled off a few questions himself, Which makes my job easier. I thanked him for helping me write my column. Nemo pondered thusly: “So, if you’re stopped at a red light, can you text? What if you’re in a parking lot and the car is running, can you text? What if you’re texting, get pulled over and say you were calling someone? Do I want to go to the trouble of confiscating your phone and then getting a warrant to search your personal property?”
Clarkston’s chief, Paul Ormiston (who, by the way, looks marvelous riding a bike during crowd control at parades -- I think it’s kinda cool, seeing a bicyclist packing heat and a safety helmet) agrees the new law will be “tough” to enforce.
The mustachioed Jerry Narsh, Lake Orion’s top law man, called the new law, “today’s fuzzy dice.”
In the 1950s, he said, the cool thing to do was hang stuff from the rearview mirror. Ever a competitive society, folks started to outdo each other. The dice got bigger. Bronzed baby shoes were neato, too. All these dangling things made it hard to see, causing accidents. Thus started the long-line of little laws passed to make drivers pay attention do what they are supposed to do.
“Just drive!” Narsh likes to rant. Really, he admitted to ranting about drivers via a Twitter blog. He does this to help relieve frustration from watching modern folk attempt to multi-task whilst driving -- you know, putting on makeup, eating, drinking, arguing with folks on the phone, reading -- the list can go on and on.
“Some are better at it than others,” he concluded.
Narsh, Nemo and Ormiston -- the long arm of the law, locally -- are resigned to the fact the law was signed by Governor Granholm. They have not told their officers to be on the lookout for those dangerous and menacing criminal texters (though they think there are probably some communities where this could be happening). What they are doing is what they have been doing all along, namely watching for distracted drivers.
Are you swerving over lanes, bouncing up over curbs, looking down and not at the road? If so, chances are you’ll be pulled over. And, even if you were texting and lie about it, you’re gonna get a ticket for something like “careless driving.”
So why pass a new law? Because it is what lawmakers do.
Unfortunately, when lawmakers make laws they get tunnel vision on specific “bad” actions and overlook bigger pictures. I think it makes them feel useful, takes away their guilt for getting paid full-time wages to work essentially part-time jobs.
So, where did this “feel good” law come from?
I learned long ago (by reading cheap, pulp fiction) to follow the money. A person’s first violation will cost ‘em at least $100 as a civil infraction; the second offense, $200. This money -- chump change -- goes to the government. But wait, there’s more. As I follow the money, I also connect the dots and make assumptions. If you are ticketed for texting -- in essence, careless driving -- your insurance premiums will go up. This can add up to quite a lot of greenbacks not in your wallet. Who gets that money? Like I said, follow the money and make your own conclusions.
John Mathers, of Mathers Insurance Agency once said, “Insurance companies are not your friend.”
I thanked all the chiefs for helping me write this week’s column, and only Narsh had something to add, “When you get paid, I only want 20 percent.”
Thanks, Jerry. You’re swell. Ironically, Narsh says though the law “fuzzy dice” law is still on the books -- the first domino to fall in a long line of driving safety laws leading up to the texting -- he hasn’t seen a fuzzy dice ticket in decades.
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Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org