Fighting the Nanny State

Don Gustavson is batting a big fat .000 after three efforts to repeal Nevada’s motorcycle helmet law. But the Republican assemblyman from Sparks is prepared to give it a fourth shot when lawmakers reconvene in Carson City come February.

For many Nanny Staters, Mr. Gustavson’s effort might seem unimaginable, even nuts. But he calmly points out that over the past 30 years, some 25 states have gotten rid of their helmet laws for experienced adult riders.

Mr. Gustavson believes that government regulations shouldn’t infringe on personal liberty. (Imagine that!) But his bill draft was met with predictable derision from public safety types. John Johansen, impaired driving safety coordinator for the state Office of Traffic Safety, said the state will fight the assemblyman’s measure — although what business Nevada workers have lobbying lawmakers on the issue remains a mystery. Mr. Johansen maintains the helmet law saves taxpayers millions of dollars by preventing head injuries.

That argument, of course, is being used to justify an ever-expanding and constant incursion on the rights of individuals to make their own choices on a number of fronts, whether it be the food they eat or the recreational habits they choose. It’s a dangerous and pernicious outlook — and one that would suffer a small but long-overdue setback were Mr. Gustavson’s efforts to prevail.

On a related issue, Mr. Johansen’s sentiments were a bit more encouraging.

Newly elected Democratic Sen. Shirley Breeden is eager to push for new laws. Sen. Breeden has requested a bill draft to outlaw drivers from text messaging.

The proposal was borne out of Sen. Breeden’s own efforts to peck the keypad while behind the wheel. “Everybody does it who has a BlackBerry,” she said. “You know in the back of your mind that it is unsafe, but the temptation is there.”

Indeed, it’s not a good idea to play with a cell phone while navigating Nevada’s roads or highways. Nor is it a good idea to eat while driving, fiddle with the radio while moving in traffic or reach back to deal with a mouthy child in the rear seat. These are all distractions that can cause accidents.

“Driving is really a full-time thing,” Mr. Johansen said, adding his office may not take a position on the Breeden bill. “You don’t need divided attention. But I don’t think cell phones should be the poster child for distracted driving.”

Singling out one type of behavior as particularly risky behind the wheel doesn’t address the real issue, which is making sure motorists always pay attention when they drive. Police already have the power to issue citations to those whose distractions cause them to drive dangerously. We don’t need another law.

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