California is raising the fine for talking on your cell phone while driving... to $309 for the first offense. And I couldn't be happier about it. It was a hot topic on the show today, but the debate actually started in our morning planning meeting.
I, like Judge Andrew Napolitano, am a card-carrying Libertarian (actually, there are no cards). So why do I support a law that increases the reach of the nanny state? Isn't the essence of the Libertarian viewpoint to prevent the government from making unnecessary laws that infringe upon our personal rights and freedoms?
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The answer, in my opinion, is absolutely... but driving is not a right, it's a privilege. When you are granted a privilege, such as a driver's license, you submit yourself to regulation.
Here's an example: I live in New York City. I can walk, or take a cab or subway to thousands of our fine drinking establishments. Once there, I can have all the whisky I want. If I want to get to the point where I can't walk straight and I forget my name, it's my right to do so. And at the end of the night, I can hop back into a cab, stumble into my apartment and pass out face-down on my bed with my clothes on. My only punishment for doing this will be an awful hangover. Ain't America great?
I grew up in the suburbs of New York. The closest bar was at least a 10 minute drive from my house. No public transportation. No cabs. So if I headed out to a bar... unlike in New York, I have only two choices... Honey's or The Grandstand. Neither is that classy, but hey... the beer's cold. No whisky tonight, I have to drive home. I get in my car and on the way home, I get stopped at a DUI checkpoint. I'm not driving recklessly. But according to the law I am way past the legal limit. I think I'll be hard pressed to find anyone who would say I shouldn't be arrested, fined and have my driver's license revoked.
Why? Because when I signed my name on the form at the DMV to get my license fifteen years ago, I entered into a contract with the state of New York that says I get the privilege of driving a car at the expense of certain rights. Rights like being able to drink all I want on a Saturday night or talking or texting on my cell phone.
It's just too complicated to have different standards for everyone. The laws need to encompass all drivers to prevent fatal car accidents. We shouldn't have different DUI standards for people who can hold their liquor better and we shouldn't have different cell phone laws for people who can hold their phones better.