January 1 is a traditional date for new laws to go into effect, 21st century humans being all about segmenting and notating things, and so I find myself perusing the latest new laws our overlords in Washington and Boston have seen fit to burden us with.
One that catches my attention is a new Massachusetts law that bans idling of car engines. While this linked page is about idling in Boston, it’s a new statewide law. The summary of the law is that you can’t leave your car unattended and running for more than five minutes. There are limited exceptions, like when you need the engine to do some necessary task like operating a lift. I’ve seen other descriptions say that letting an idling unattended car defrost the windshield is also permitted, but the law doesn’t explicitly say that .
But of course I’m also thinking of a different case. We’re now told by all the relevant safety figures that we should not buckle kids into car seats in bulky winter coast as it’s not safe. But if we can’t heat up the car on sub-freezing days, what are we supposed to do? Should I put my kid in a dangerously cold car with no coat on? If the goal is to prevent idling the engine to avoid pollution, sitting in the car with the child in a coat and unbuckled until the car is warm before taking off the coat and buckling him, then we’re not really saving any gas. We’re just creating frustration.
This is yet another law that adds to the thousands of laws on the books where many of them don’t think through all the possible consequences and just put us on the wrong side of steep fines.
Hold the Phone
Speaking of steep fines, Massachusetts’ ban on handheld cell phone use is going into effect soon (albeit not January 1). The law provides for $100 fine on first offense, and escalating steeply for every offense after that. Not to mention the hit to your insurance premiums. And this isn’t just a ban on texting or even calls. You can’t hold your phone. Period. You can still talk to other people in the car, change the radio station, turn the heat or AC on or off, drink a coffee, eat a burger, or a thousand other things. But you can’t hold your phone.
The ostensible reason for this new law is because cellphone use while driving is supposedly so dangerous. But I debunked that myth several years ago. The short version: in 2014, only about 1% of all automobile-related deaths were reported to involve the use of a cellphone. In the most recent reported year, 2017, it was still 434 deaths attributable to driving while using a cellphone out of 37,133. That’s out of 225 million licensed drivers nationwide, not just in Massachusetts.
The reality is that we’re using a sledgehammer to kill a snowflake. There isn’t this epidemic of cellphone-related distracted driving crashes out there.1 It’s just politicians showing their relevance on contemporary issues of concern so they can tell voters they did something to solve… something.
Money in Your Pocket
Of course, it’s not all bad news. The nanny state is letting us keep a little more of our hard-earned cash. But it’s oh-so-begrudging. The Boston Globe puts it: “Some changes, for individuals, may be small — probably about $20 a week.” Well, maybe it’s small for the well-heeled swells in the executive suite, but us working joes, twenty bucks a week is nothing to laugh at. It could mean gas in the car or at least my daily coffee. Yes, we’re not getting rich off of it, but the important note is that it’s MY money. I’m not getting a freebie from Beacon Hill, I’m just getting to keep what’s mine in the first place. Gee, thanks.
What other new laws do our governmental betters have for us this year? Got any examples of your own?
- If you disagree, show me the sourced data. ↩