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Friday, December 19, 2008

Let's not give police the authority to stop safe drivers.

Rocky Mountain News column by Vincent Carroll

The head of the Rocky's editorial page discusses the tragic death of a little girl, Erica Forney, who was struck by a negligent driver. The negligent driver was "thought to have been" on a cell phone at the time of the incident.

"As a result," according to Carroll, "a couple of Fort Collins lawmakers, Democrats John Kefalas and Randy Fischer, are reportedly mulling over the possibility of sponsoring a bill to restrict telephone calls while driving."

No doubt, Kefalas and Fischer have nothing but good intentions. However, good intentions should never trump good sense.

The driver of the car has been charged with "careless driving resulting in death." It is already an offense to drive carelessly. It was careless driving that killed Erica. It was not talking on a phone that killed her.

Making it an offense to do something that does not harm anyone because it might lead to conduct that harms someone is ill-advised. Where does that line of reasoning end?

Right now, police officers can stop someone they observe driving carelessly. These people are dangerous, and this is a legitimate use of police power.

But if police are given the authority to stop someone talking on the phone while driving, even if that person is driving perfectly safely, that would be an illegitimate expansion of police power. Do we really want to give police the authority to stop people driving safely? 

We all might do something illegal eventually. Is that enough of a reason to subject ourselves to the power of the state before we actually do something illegal?

BlueCarp says "no."

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