It's a fact of left-leaning, illiberal politics that whenever something becomes popular, there will be a statist politician, regardless of party affiliation, who will want to ban it. Given our technologically advanced, technologically saturated world, many of these proposals involve emerging, developing, or simply increasingly popular technology, period.
As you would expect, these proposed bans or increased controls on or of very popular products or services are difficult to sell, on average. Ridiculous rumors that the government wants to tax your e-mails are a symptom of this phenomenon; people believe it because that's typically dictatorial, totalitarian behavior: if it's popular, it has to be stopped. Consumer outrage often curbs these attempts – recently, public outcry forced Time Warner Cable to back away from plans to meter Internet service – but there are ways around the unpopularity of such schemes. In some cases, this can be done through more technology, such as the jamming of wireless phones by hotel chains in Scotland. Much more frequently, however, these forces of state control rely on something much more reliable: public fear.
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There was a time when radios in cars were considered unsafe. Many years later, radios in cars are a fact of life, commonly taken for granted. Talking on cell phones while driving has likewise become an accepted fact of life, despite the amount of complaining that every driver does about all those other drivers. The statists among us, those who believe government power can and should be used to control any and all aspects of human behavior they find objectionable, have attacked the use of handheld phones through the power of the law. As of this writing, five states prohibit all drivers from talking on handheld wireless phones while driving. Other states treat phones as a potential source of driver distraction; some ban certain kinds of drivers from using phones, such as young drivers. Even with these restrictions in place, there are those who seek to ban all phone use in automobiles, even with hands-free devices (the common exception to such laws).
While the war to prevent you from chatting while driving continues on these multiple fronts, the statists have found something else that they cannot abide: texting. Already, 12 states and the District of Columbia ban text-messaging while driving. None of us, however, is stupid enough to believe that this law prevents drivers in those states (or any other states) from texting while traveling down the road. Those who wish to control every aspect of your in-car behavior have responded by trying to drum up public fear over that behavior, for in fear comes support for invasive laws. If they can make you believe it isn't safe, you won't stop them from outlawing it.
Fully half of U.S. drivers admit to using a cell phone while driving. One in every seven drivers admits to texting while driving. When you consider the numbers, those are staggering figures. Clearly, a huge percentage of drivers is comfortable using a phone and sending text messags on that phone while driving. Despite the dire predictions of highway safety advocates who claim some phenomenal, unverified percentage of traffic accidents is caused by phone use, the streets have not, in fact, run red with blood because of distracted drivers. Similar forecasts of doom and destruction were made when the double-nickel speed limit was raised to 65 miles per hour in various states and – surprise – the "Road Warrior" vision of apocalyptic roadway carnage never came to pass.
If the forces of statism cannot, however, persuade you that using your phone to text while driving will GET YOU KILLED, they'll settle for propaganda that convinces you that the act of texting itself is bad for you and for your children. An industry exists in the United States and worldwide that consists solely of studies generated weekly and even daily, whose purpose is to make you afraid of some commonplace object, behavior, or condition. Too much of some things will kill you. Too little of other things will kill you. Almost everything causes cancer, repetitive stress injuries, lower IQ scores, substandard math grades, shingles and chronic halitosis. How do I know? Well, I read the studies, of course.
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Despite the dearth of studies showing conclusive harm caused by texting, and despite the fact that the increased prevalence of texting is itself a new phenomenon (which means there are no long-term data from which to draw conclusions about texting's health effects), the capital-T They have now decided that texting will screw up your teenagers. According to this latest clot of doom-saying, sandwich-board-wearing killjoys, texting causes young people to experience anxiety, distraction, falling grades, a lack of independence, and what is practically a flop-sweating, goggle-eyed paranoia that their phones could be vibrating at any given second, even when they're not. (Phantom vibrations do, in fact, occur among compulsive technology users.)
This, of course, is ridiculous. If anything, our society increasingly divorces parents from control over their children, while sending those children dangerously mixed messages about their choices, their country, their bodies, their faith, etc. Name the topic and I'll show you a subject in which parents fear they're losing influence over their children's decision process, competing as they do with the myriad influences of popular culture, peer pressure and socio-political events.
Regardless of the tack taken or the appeal to emotion employed, text-messaging is not harmful to your children and is no more dangerous while driving than is any other potentially distracting activity. Each reasoning adult must choose how to conduct his or her life in and out of the car. He may choose to conduct himself responsibly, or he may not – but empowering the government to treat all of us as irresponsible before the fact is not acceptable. This is not the purview of the government of a free society. It is not the proper treatment of a free people. If they can take away your texting, they can take anything else they want to take.