Friday, June 24, 2011

Carolyn McCarthy, Texting While Driving, & The Limits of Advocacy

Representative McCarthy (D-NY) was certainly a compelling Congressional candidate in 1996.  Her husband had been killed and her son severely injured in a 1993 shooting rampage on the Long Island Railroad by madman Colin Ferguson.  First-term Republican incumbent Daniel Frisa remained opposed to any blanket gun-bans on principle, but found it hard to articulate his views before a salivating media and a opponent who had an unlimited amount of public sympathy.  McCarthy rolled all over him, and has been a Congresswoman ever since.

Well, "Congresswoman" may be a stretch.  She's primarily a one-issue representative, and that issue, unsurprisingly, is gun control.  Having made what headway she could during the Clinton era, her cause has become much less celebrated, as the nation has become more comfortable with being heavily armed (and the lower crime rates that have accompanied that evolution).  So she's found a new killer that she must eradicate: Texting while driving.

Yes, the scourge of America:

 Rep. Carolyn McCarthy wants a national ban on the use of hand-held devices while driving.

The New York Representative said legislation, which she introduced on Thursday, was a “starting point” for later safety measures against the cellphone practice that is “as dangerous as drunk driving.”

“I cannot [overstate] how serious of an issue this is,” said McCarthy during a press conference announcing the legislation. “Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous problems on the road today. It is, in my opinion, as dangerous as drunk driving or drowsy driving.”

About 5,000 people — roughly .0001 percent of the population — are killed each year due to distracted driving, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Conversely, there were more than 40,000 drunk driver fatalities in 2009, according to the NHTSA’s latest data.

Is text-driving dangerous?  Yes, but no more so than crossing a busy Manhattan intersection.  McCarthy is the symbol of the activist who must keep pushing, lest they lose their own inflated sense of self-importance.  Think MADD, for instance.  Successful in reducing drunk driving, they are now pushing for what is essentially "zero-tolerance" for even a drop of alcohol in the bloodstream, as well as other Gestapo-like tactics to keep the populace in line.  Note how quickly, too, MADD is losing their cache...

Advocacy gone wild.  In Homer's Odyssey (the Simpsons episode, not the Greek epic), Homer becomes a safety advocate, but goes over the line and eventually drives his fellow citizens crazy.

With these examples in mind (both real and fictional), I'd like to state that is is time for Congresswoman McCarthy to step down.  With a myriad of national crises facing the nation, texting while driving, while certifiably stupid, can be handled at the state and local level.   It's not a federal issue.  If McCarty wants to make it one, she can.  As a private citizen using her former connections to fund an advocacy or awareness group.  Not as a Congresswoman trying to use her power to once again interfere in the lives of ordinary Americans.

Retirement does have its benefits, Carolyn....maybe it's time for you to enjoy them.  Believe it or not, Congresswoman....your work here is done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe you need to know what it feels like to be permanently disabled due to a distracted (texting) driver. Last year my life changed forever due to someone else's negligence. This is a NATIONAL epidemic across all age groups. As a final note .. the problem was not only with the original status offense but also with it being enforced. Now, I will pray that you can live your normal every day life criticizing others while you sit back and help no one.