Pat's View: Distracted

By Pat Cashman

If you are reading this while driving at a high-speed down the freeway, you might not necessarily be breaking the law---although you ARE living dangerously. But if you are reading this while driving at a high-speed down the freeway---AND not wearing your seatbelt---you are definitely dead meat.

Specifically, you are 124 dollars worth of dead meat---the fine a policeman could slap on you for driving seat beltless. (If you are reading this while driving sleeveless, no problem. Your right to drive while wearing a short sleeve tee shirt is constitutionally protected under the 2nd Amendment: “...the right of the people to keep...bare arms, shall not be infringed---regardless of whether those short sleeves have fringes or not.”)
The mandatory seat belt law is something like enacting a mandatory PANTS belt law. It’s a law to protect people from themselves. In the case of seat belts, from injury or worse in a car accident. In the case of pants belts, from embarrassment or worse in a dancing accident.

The zero tolerance change in the seat belt law was long ago made into a more-easily swallowed pill by the Washington State Patrol’s use of the nifty little slogan “Click it or ticket.” That makes it all sound sort of fun, doesn’t it?:
MOTORIST: “What seems to be the problem, officer?”
COP: “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
MOTORIST: “The body in my trunk?”
COP: “No, Mr. Silly. It’s Click it or ticket!”
MOTORIST: “Click it or ticket? What a sticky wicket, Officer Pickett! Ha, ha, ha!’

The “Click it or Ticket” catchphrase works so well, it makes you wonder why there are not similarly friendly little warning mottoes for other state laws:
---First-time auto thieves could now be sentenced up to a year in jail. “If you steal it, you’re gonna feel it.” Or, “If this car is hot, wind up in the cooler.”
---Segway scooters aren’t allowed to be operated on public paths or bike lanes. “It’s the Segway or the highway.”
---Gambling cheaters face jail time and fines up to $20,000 dollars. “Mark the deck, and catch heck.”

One of the trickiest things about being an American is figuring out how to balance being a nation of laws with also being a nation that celebrates its personal freedoms. Freedom of speech is wonderful---but in the oft-quoted example, it doesn’t make it OK for someone to shout “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre. An exception is made for Nicholas Cage movies made in the last five years.

Since 2010, texting or talking on a hand-held device is a no-no in Washington state---but Oregon has a bill going through their legislature that’s a bit vaguer. It would be illegal to touch a phone screen---but if the screen is built into your car, that’s cool. It’s all about “distracted driving.” Presumably that would include listening to talk radio, eating a sloppy sandwich---and giving a blabby hitchhiker a ride.

Most new laws go into effect 90 days after our last state legislative session. The 90 days is designed to give legislators time to hide.

In case you have not been following the current state government activity as closely as you should---here are just some of the new laws being considered:
---It would be illegal to say “24/7” in everyday conversation. The reason for this change is that the use of “24/7” is driving people nuts---all day long, every day of the week.

---Another punishable offense is the use of the phrase “I’m having trouble getting my mind (or head) around it.” (Example: “I’m having trouble getting my mind around the knighting of Mick Jagger.”) The reason for this new “mind around it” law is to reduce the risk of folks wanting to get their hands around the throats of people who say it ad nauseum. Other phrases are being attached to the bill, including: “At the end of the day,” “leveling the playing field”---and the word “awesome.”

---TV weather forecasters will now be required to apologize or face fines: “I am terribly sorry about last night’s forecast. I blew it. I am going back to meterology school for a few weeks. See you when I return.”

---Only natives of particular Washington state towns can now kid around about those towns. Only Kent can legally make Kent jokes. Only Ballard can make jabs about Ballard. If there ARE any Mercer Island jokes, only Mercer Island natives can crack them. The good news? It is still permitted for ANY Washington resident to make fun of Idaho.

And---it would soon be illegal for anyone to use public elevators if they’ve eaten garlic fries the night before. A slogan is ready: “If your breath wakes the dead, take the stairs up instead .” That one needs work.

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