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April 06, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Laws of common sense

Sometimes we need to be protected from legislators. But sometimes they really do have our protection in mind.

by Frank Di Giacomo - Also by this author

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In the face of lawmaking efforts that one deems unnecessary, a familiar response is “You can’t legislate common sense.”

A few years ago, a New Jersey legislator used that phrase in response to a colleague’s proposed bill to ban bicyclists from using hand-held cell phones.

Back in the 1930s, famed cowboy performer and social commentator Will Rogers wrote, “You can’t legislate intelligence and common sense into people.”

Sure, lawmakers are known to get carried away from time to time. But with all due respect to Will Rogers and others who have expressed similar sentiments, sometimes you have to legislate common sense.

For example, it seems obvious that you should not drive a school bus (or a car, a boat, farm machinery, etc.) while intoxicated. Does that mean there’s no need for drunken-driving laws? Absolutely not. Even those who don’t see a problem with getting behind the wheel after pounding shots at the tavern can understand deterrents like hundreds of dollars in fines, loss of license and possible jail time.

Focus on distraction

Under the direction of Secretary Ray LaHood, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has made distracted driving a key target, apparently seeking to raise its urgency level closer to that of drunken driving. Since LaHood convened a national summit on the issue in September, the DOT has initiated a series of actions to combat distracted driving, with the focus being on use of cell phones.

In late January, the DOT unveiled a federal ban on texting for truck and bus drivers. However, the ban only applies to school bus drivers in limited cases: when they are covered by 49 CFR 390.17.

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