The government shouldn't have to tell people not to drive while texting, any more than it should have to tell them not to drive while blindfolded, or steering with their feet. But we've all learned that some people do have to be told, repeatedly, to refrain from actions that endanger themselves and others. And even after the warnings, some of them will continue to offend until rather severe punishment is imposed, or until they've killed themselves and a carful of innocent people to boot.
The Arkansas legislature approved a couple of laws earlier this year directed at the problem of distracted driving. One prohibits texting, another forbids cell-phone use by drivers under 18. The police are now taking up enforcement of the new laws and finding difficulty in doing so, because of the vague way in which the statutes were written. Do your best, officers, we advise, until the legislators can make corrections when they meet again in January. That's supposed to be a session for fiscal matters, but a two-thirds vote will allow other items to be considered. Surely two-thirds of the Arkansas legislature is pro-life.
Studies have shown that drivers texting and talking on cell phones are as dangerous as drivers who're intoxicated. The federal Transportation Department says 5,870 people were killed in the U.S. last year and 515,000 injured because of distracted driving, and most of that distraction was done by electronic devices. (Those numbers are far too low, incidentally. It's harder to prove that a driver was texting when he ran into the school bus than that he had alcohol in his blood stream.)
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and others are backing legislation that would require states to ban texting and e-mailing while driving or lose 25 percent of their federal highway money. That would help. So would a citizens' group, something like MADD, which agitates tirelessly against drunken drivers. Texters and cell-phone talkers have earned a resolute adversary too.
Many deliberate lies are told about President Obama's proposed health-care reform, but there's a lot of hard-core stupidity in the opposition too. Investor's Business Daily, a right-wing newspaper headquartered in Los Angeles, editorialized on July 31: “People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.” Hawking has always lived in the United Kingdom, one of the most famous Englishmen of his time. He responded to the Daily: “I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”