Missouri’s law against young people sending text messages while driving is only the beginning. Regulators want to make sure drivers can think about nothing but the road in front of them:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called distracted driving a “hot button” issue for state legislatures and said he’s against all distracted driving, not just cell phone use.
“I don’t care what the distraction is,” he said. “We’re going to set the highest bar possible. There should be no distractions.”
An obvious problem with outlawing all distractions is that we could never enforce such broad controls on drivers’ behavior. That doesn’t dissuade the texting ban’s supporters, who say that whether anyone is ever found to be in violation of a law doesn’t matter. Here’s how an AAA spokesman puts it:
“The benefit of having it in the statute is voluntary compliance, sort of like every other law.”
Perhaps the roads are safer because drivers willingly cooperate with texting bans, but, if so, texting bans are the exception. Most laws are effective because we can prosecute people for breaking them, and thereby deter people from breaking them in the future.
The more laws we write restricting drivers’ activities, the less we’ll be able to depend on their voluntary compliance. Drivers won’t pay attention to a laundry list forbidding every activity they could engage in while behind the wheel.