Education, as always, beats legislation

New Mexico lawmakers are supposed to be focusing on the budget this legislative session, but they always seem to find time to consider new laws to make us all “safer.”

One bill they’ll consider, with support from Gov. Susana Martinez, is Senate Bill 19, which would outlaw texting while driving.

Of course it’s a bad idea to text while driving. But a law against it won’t prevent this unsafe practice any more than our laws against drinking and driving keep drunks off the road.

Other laws already on the books provide a reason that law officers can pull someone over if they suspect unsafe or distracted driving. Officers have said they use them and we know they do so when they stop some drivers whose car the officer sees weaving or failing to maintain control in one highway lane.

What works better is a common sense catch-all law: Drive safely.

That would prevent the need for a thousand laws purportedly intended to keep motorists safe.

Look at the logic of a don’t-text-and-drive law. If one of those is needed, then why don’t we pass a gas-bag bucket full of legal limits: Forbid driving while tuning the radio, or yelling at the kids, or shaving, or reading the newspaper, talking politics, eating, or myriad other potential distractions that could cause an accident.

Proponents of a no-texting law will say it is necessary because the definition of “drive safely” is too broad and means different things to different people. Yes, somewhat true, but what’s the real mission here? Keep people safe or collect traffic fines? All while overloading law officers with another unneeded law to enforce.

We have laws against intoxicated driving, but how often are offenders with multiple convictions involved in fatal accidents because the court system is reluctant to incarcerate? So, logically then, if we don’t jail people for DWI offenses now, are we really going to jail them for texting and driving?

Like most laws, the intention of this legislation is good. But personal behavior can’t be legislated effectively. If it could be, we’d have no breaking-and-entering cases, no murders, no rapes, no assaults.

As always, education is a more effective way to inspire our neighbors to be more responsible.

 

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and Editor David Stevens.

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