on criminalizing stupidity

As a general rule I prefer government to behave like men around my wife: constrained and hands off. I recognize the needful exceptions, including the government-employed and rather buff members of San Bernardino’s finest who pulled her from an overturned Corolla. I was glad to have government working that day.

Regrettably, governments, like some men, have a tendency to want to disregard limits and get, well, grabby. Thus, I look on with some consternation at the steady expansion of local, state, and federal government involvement into what in my opinion should rightly be private decisions.

And yet, there will always be those persons who make the case for some serious state intrusion into personal behavior. I was taking my dog to the vet for a checkup, and wound up behind a car at a stoplight, at the perfect angle to see the driver in the side view mirror. She was doing the classic “quick glance up/look down at the device in her hand” at the red light.

I’m no saint when it comes to replying to messages at red lights, so it didn’t concern me at that point. What concerned me is how she continued to do it for the next couple of miles, driving all the while, and she was committed. The phone never went down. She turned east, as I was also doing, onto a 6-lane divided road, and continued surfing. At least she was driving a little under the 45mph speed limit. I got out from behind her as quickly as possible, and as I overtook her on her left I could see her continuing the “quick glance up/look down” as she swiped with her thumb on her left hand, right hand on top of the wheel. It was flabbergasting.

Now, I’m pretty sure what she was doing is already against the law, so I don’t suppose there’s anything more for the government to do, legislatively speaking. Effective enforcement seems impractical, too, at least in a free society, but even I was wishing for some way to get her to stop doing something so reckless. I’ve always found the PSAs about driving and texting to be maudlin and over-the-top, but now I’m not so sure.

This I know: If I’m ever impanelled on a traffic court jury and I recognize her in the dock, I’ll be pretty sure from the get-go where the evidence will lead.

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