Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones while driving.
At first, I thought this was silly. I’m an adult! You can’t tell me what to do!
The results of cellphone use while driving are dramatic. 3,000 people died last year. Forget the expensive accidents and injuries, there are 3,000 devastated families because we like to talk or text when we should be watching the road.
So, okay, maybe we do need a law, to protect us from our own selfishness and irresponsibility.
But by that token, why don’t we outlaw trans fats and smoking? What about drunk-texting our exes and falling asleep with the lights on? At what point does it make sense for the government to save us from ourselves?
Well… hmm. If I’m not paying attention to my driving because I’m texting, there might be a body count. We could reason that the government is actually protecting other people from my negligence. And government exists to make sure we can live together without killing each other. So maybe that’s the difference? My love of junk food isn’t hurting anyone.
But what if I’m a parent, and my love of junk food– serving it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner– is harming my kids’ health? That’s a whole new can of worms, I guess, because I’m their legal guardian, and the harm is not acute. And what about smoking? Should you have the right to smoke around me, even though secondhand smoke causes harm? How big does the harm have to be, and how directly correlated?
I’m searching for a good definition of what should be left to one’s own autonomy and what actually endangers others.
What do you think?