It’s been a busy couple of weeks for personal-freedom news in Johnson County.
First came word that Mission might ban talking on hand-held phones while driving. This briefly threatened to make tiny little Mission a dominant topic on local talk radio, and Overland Park wasn’t about to stand for that. So the OP City Council, citing state law, decided to let residents pack heat in the open, just like in the Wild West days.
It’s always odd to see mentions of holsters in 21st-century municipal legislative documents, but there you have it. This is America, after all.
If Mission goes through with the cell phone ordinance, a warped state of balance will have been achieved: For every freedom I use that’s taken away from me, a freedom I’ll never use is bestowed.
Unlike many people, I don’t get worked up about government restrictions on dangerous items. Guns are dangerous items in the hands of certain people. So are cell phones in the hands of certain people — namely, people who are behind the wheel of a car at the time.
That’s why I’m actually happy that Mission might take away my freedom to yammer on the phone when I should be paying attention to the traffic and pedestrians on Johnson Drive. I’m not one of those people who thinks I’m a better driver than everyone else on the road, or that I handle distractions better, or am a better multitasker. Any multitasking that involves operating a motor vehicle is stupid and dangerous, and if you’re proud of your ability to strike a business deal while navigating through city traffic or barreling down the highway, you need to rethink your priorities. And learn time management. Then teach me.
I’m hoping Mission ban distracted driving and that other Joco cities will follow. Entire states have made it illegal to talk on hand-held phones while driving, and the Earth’s rotation has not ceased. The cries of indignation from the slippery-slope crowd (“What’s next? Are they gonna ban drinking coffee in cars?”) sound pretty absurd when you consider that 25 years ago, the right to make phone calls while driving would have seemed ludicrous.
So please do it, Mission City Council. Ban the use of hand-held phones by people whose hands are simultaneously texting or dialing while steering a ton or more of steel down the street. Do it because the safety of innocent drivers and pedestrians and children walking to school is more important than a right that never would have occurred to us just a few years ago. Do it because deadly weapons don’t always come in those holsters that I really hope not to see in Overland Park.
Mostly, Mission, I want you to do it because people like me will continue to phone and drive until the threat of fines persuades us to stop. I’m pretty self-disciplined when it comes to taking good actions — exercising, working, volunteering, etc. — but I’m woeful at stopping myself from bad actions: eating chocolate, buying unfashionable clothing, clicking on stories about Kate Middleton sunbathing topless. And talking on the phone while driving.
So while I deal with the influx of email from people telling me to grow up and take responsibility and stop calling for a nanny state, please get that ordinance passed, Mission. In 2012, itchy trigger fingers aren’t likely to cause much of a problem — even in that gun-slinging ’burb to the west of you — but twitchy texting thumbs can be deadly.
Sarah Smith Nessel, a 913 freelance columnist, writes The Bubble each week.