A friend of mine posted a note on facebook about how the ban on texting while driving is over the top.  Her point being, what about while sitting at a traffic light (surely no more dangerous than any of the OTHER tasks we do while waiting… changing CD’s, checking makeup, looking directly at our passenger to chat) or using her phone’s GPS (surely no more dangerous than checking a map… probably less so.  Is map use while driving outlawed??)

Someone else chimed in pointing out that complaining about the texting laws might also have complained when rules about seatbelts, car seats, and speed limits were begun. 

She might have a point.

I think my main complaint about legislated safety has come about when instead of protecting citizens from others… legislation is being written that tries to protect the citizens from themselves. 

What a FRUITLESS task.  What an UNENDING amount of regulations can be aimed in this direction. 

I think I would not argue with the speed limit.  While speeding occasionally only harms the person speeding and running red lights occasionally only harms the person running them, more often than not it harms OTHERS as well as yourself.

Seatbelts? I’m sorry, but seatbelts are my call.  Not that we shouldn’t wear seatbelts, but ultimately, “Others” (defined as those OUTside my car) are not going to be harmed by my choice either way. (Trauma for the EMT scraping me off the road, notwithstanding… )

Carseats?  I’m a fan of carseats.  The ONE item we spent a good deal of money on for our first child was a top-of-the-line carseat.  Pretty much everything else was second hand or hand-me-down.  We did that because WE felt it was important.  If we merely wanted to follow the law, I had a hand-me-down carrier carseat that was perfectly legal and almost as perfectly “unsafe” that I could have used.  Instead, it was relegated as a ‘bouncy seat’ (strap the child in and rock it with your foot) because that WAS a safe use for it.   However… as big a fan as I am of carseats… I don’t think that is something that deserves to be legislated. 

Encouraged?  Sure!

Recommended by doctors to new and existing mothers?  YOU BET!

Awareness raised with brochures telling the gruesome tales of children NOT put in carseats?  Why not?

Promoted by parents to their children whom they want to be safe?? Definitely.

But, I am also a firm believer that self-regulated safety is the best method for safety of self. Self, including one’s own family. 

As an example of this, only the mom or dad can really know at what age a child could be left in a car for the five minutes it takes to pay for gas or drop off a phone bill.  Only the people who live in the area can adequately determine whether that is a ‘safe’ option for the part of town they are in.  I’m not a person who would leave my children in the car while I run into a little place in North Omaha, for example, but all of my older children (before this became a law) passed many a happy time listening to story CD’s, sleeping, or snacking in the car while I did 5-10 minute exits.  Before I realized it WAS a law, they even waited in the car while I went in to get our plates renewed at the courthouse.  I could see the van from the window.  Keyless entry allowed me to put it on auxiliary to run the vents and still get in when my errand was finished.  Now my children have also come in with me and they know how to sit sweetly, but the youngest was asleep.  Rather than risk him waking and growing concerned at being left in the car or awakening him to bring him in, the older two were happy to stay to keep him company.  When the errand took longer than intended, I went out to check and make sure everyone was still smiling.  They were. 

Could someone have broken the window and driven off with my van and children?   Could a car have run into my vehicle?  Could a unibomber imitator have planted a device under my van?   Could my trustworthy responsible child (who was the only one able to get out of his seat) have decided to take a joy ride?  

Sure.  But how likely were those things?   In truth, the oldest DID get out of his seat.  To retrieve a book that his sister had dropped and ‘keep her happy, mom’ as he phrased it.  By the time I got back out, he was unbuckling it again to hand his newly awakened brother part of his own snack.  He was four at the time.  Four going on 20.  He’s an old soul.  Three children.  Four and under.  In a van.  Without incident.  But I wouldn’t do that with someone else’s children.  Not because it’s not ‘safe’, but because I wouldn’t know the children well enough to make that call of “they’ll be fine”.  But because they were MY kids, because I’ve watched MY children, because I knew what mood they were in, how rested they were, how enthralled they were with their story CD, I was confident that they would handle themselves fine.  So were they. 

Not everyone’s four year old is like that.  Then again, not everyone’s (what age limit is it?? I don’t even know!) 16 year old is responsible enough to be left in the care with his younger siblings and yield a good result either.  In fact, I’ve met a few adults that I wouldn’t trust to sit in the care with my kids while I ran errands.  So why is someone who doesn’t KNOW my child drawing the line??  Why not leave it up to the parent’s discretion? 

Because no one wants the ‘unthinkable’ to happen.   But the unthinkable will keep happening, because the type of people these rules are made for are the very type who will recklessly ignore them, leaving the rest of us calculated, responsible persons who know and respect our childrens’ limits (in both the ‘unable to’ and ‘able to’) obeying rules that end up being pointless because they will have little effect on the experiences they meant to prevent.

Assuming, of course, that they weren’t trying to prevent the experience my children had.  A sweet, cooperative story-time with snack as opposed to sitting patiently with mom.  Neither are bad choices, I admit.  But neither should be against the law either.

When I tell my children a new rule, it is usually in a broad form.  “We color on the paper in our paper box.”

Not “You can’t color on the walls.  Don’t color on the table. Don’t color on the floor.  Stop coloring your sister purple.  Don’t color in a magazine unless it is one mommy gave to you just for that.  Don’t color in our story-books.  Stop coloring on my feet.  Oh, and only color on schoolbooks  if mommy asks you to.”

No.

Way too many superfluous rules. 

Just because a child colors on the floor, doesn’t mean I add that one to the rule books.  Instead, we just repeat “We color on the paper in our paper box.”  The rest of the rules are pointless. Meaningless.  The blanket rule covers them.  

So instead of “use carseats.  Don’t leave them alone in the car until they are ___ years old.” We could stick with ‘don’t abuse or neglect your children’.  I’m pretty sure most parents and arresting officers would be able to tell what that looks like without it being spelled out in an ever-growing list of additional rules.

Instead of, “don’t text.  No cellphone usage.  Don’t eat while driving.  No more makeup in the front seat.” How about we stick with “no reckless driving”.  Again, pretty sure both people and officers would know what that looks like without any subtitles. 

Just a few of my thoughts on the subject.  What are yours? (All I ask is that when you call me a careless parent, you do so as sweetly as possible… =) )

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