Vermont Ups the Nanny Ante


If you were in midsentence composing your slippery slope "what are they going to ban next?" response to yesterday's proposed ban on pedestrians wearing iPods, hang on .

Vermont lawmakers are considering a measure that would ban eating, drinking, smoking, reading, writing, personal grooming, playing an instrument, "interacting with pets or cargo," talking on a cell phone or using any other personal communication device while driving. The punishment: a fine of up to $600.

Similar bills are under consideration in Maryland and Texas, and Connecticut has passed one that generically bans any activity that could interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle.

On some preposterously paternalistic level, these bans make sense. Most all of the activities listed above have been shown in studies to be more distracting to drivers than a cell phone conversation, which is now banned in much of the country. Of course, many of those same studies show the most distracting activities are (1) having kids in the backseat, and (2) fumbling with the radio/CD player. And neither of those are likely to be banned (yet).

The sponsor of the Vermont law says he proposed it after his wife saw someone playing the flute while driving. Whether or not you buy that story (I don't), it seems like a moronic reason to pass such a sweeping piece of legislation. Some idiot was playing a flute, so you ban eating a sandwich?

Some people are perfectly capable of talking on a cell phone, drinking coffee, or having a dog in the backseat without endangering themselves or anyone else on the road. Others can have eyes on the road, hand in the 10-2 position, and seatbelt securely fastened—and still drive like a drunk 12-year-old.

So here's a novel idea: Why not ignore what's going on inside the car, and just pull people over and fine them when they drive recklessly?