Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Nothing Better To Do Special

October 6, 2005 

You might think that Connecticut’s state legislators, representing a state ridden with political corruption and the highest tax burden in the nation, might have something better to do than enact asinine laws that rob citizens of personal liberty...but that is exactly the “state of the State” in Connecticut.  It appears that New London is only a small example of Connecticut’s insatiable governmental appetite for simple-minded arrogance and theft

In its last session, the Connecticut Legislature, apparently with nothing better to do, passed two “in-your-face” pieces of law.  The first, AN ACT CONCERNING SCHOOL NUTRITION, was a response to growing childhood obesity.  So, the bright-bulbs at the Legislature listened to their lobbyists and banned lower calorie beverages in favor of more fattening drinks.  Without missing a beat, Conky 2000 whispered the secret word “cell phone” and the Legislature screamed back, AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF HAND-HELD MOBILE TELEPHONES BY OPERATORS OF MOTOR VEHICLES (aka PA No. 05-159)

One can only surmise that the Legislature feared the state employees’ unions more than the cell phone lobby so they decided to ignore absolutely out of control state spending in favor of playing cell phone nanny. 

And who can blame them?  With a leading gubernatorial candidate publicly admitting that “...the key to success in the primary and in the general election is going to be the support of organized labor...They are key to an effective field operation, and I recognize that”, stealing some personal freedom from the electorate is a whole lot less risky  than trimming back state spending. 

PA No. 05-159 became law on October 1, 2005 and it is a real marvel of convoluted logic and hypocritical personal intrusion. 

The law is designed to prohibit people from holding a cell phone to their ear while driving a car.  You can dial a number and push send, but you can’t hold the phone to your ear while you are talking.  As a matter of fact, “An operator of a motor vehicle who holds a hand-held mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while such vehicle is in motion is presumed to be engaging in a call within the meaning of this section.”  In case you are making a “make-believe” call, “The presumption established by this subdivision is rebuttable by evidence tending to show that the operator was not engaged in a call.” 

After consulting a few august legal minds, I discovered that you can hold the phone to your ear while driving as long as you aren’t actually talking to anybody.  This was an accommodation by the Legislature for: (1) losers who actually don’t have anybody to talk to but wish they did and (2) crazy people.  Either way, it still leaves you: talking to nobody; holding a phone to your ear and driving with one hand on the wheel. 

And speaking of one hand on the wheel...what about amputees with driver’s licenses?   

From the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, we are told that amputees can drive as long as they have their vehicles outfitted with “adaptive equipment”.  If you were French Foreign Legion Capitaine Danjou who lost his left hand at Hacienda Camarón, you could get your car equipped with a right-side turn signal and continue to: drive; signal and talk to nobody on the cell phone. 

Apparently, the Connecticut legislature wants its citizens to either wear headsets or utilize other “hands free” technology while talking and driving.  This isn’t to say that you still can’t stare at your cell phone and punch out text messages.  Since the phone is not at your ear, under the new law, text messaging would seem a valid excuse for one-handed driving except that the law further states that “no person shall engage in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such vehicle”.   

It’s not clear exactly what this means.  Some legislators have used examples such as “putting on makeup” and “eating a burger” while driving as “not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle”.  Of course, this leaves you at the mercy of an officer’s judgment when it comes to: drinking water; a diabetic eating an exchange or somebody with body lice scratching themselves. 

The law instructs the officer to “record, on any summons form issued in connection with the matter, the specific nature of any distracted driving behavior observed by such officer”.  Although seemingly harmless, this little nuance leaves your fate at the discretion of: (1) the arresting officer; (2) the prosecutor and (3) the Judge.  See how taking a little sip of water can somehow remove you from being the master of your own destiny? 

As always, there are the “do as I say – not as I do” exceptions.  If you wish to place a cell phone to your ear and call a little hottie who happens to be working at “a hospital, physician's office or health clinic; an ambulance company; a fire department; or a police department” you are exempt from the law.  Also, if you are “the operator of a taxi cab, tow truck or bus without passengers” you are exempt from the law. 

It is really hard to fathom why “the operator of a taxi cab, tow truck or bus” is too challenged to utilize a “Hands-free accessory”.  But discrimination in the application of law seems to be the standard that Connecticut lives by.  You really have to love having your liberties micro-managed by a bunch of Playhouse characters...most of who are too challenged to even spell Constitution, let alone actually read the document.     

And finally, if you are “A peace officer in the performance of his or her official duties and within the scope of his or her employment” you can drive with one hand and yak with the other.  Somehow the thought of a peace officer in a highway pursuit asking his wife “what’s for dinner” is not a comforting thought.  

This law is an example of the silly crap that politicians can dream up when they are too cowardly to deal with real issues.  These are the diversion issues that distract the electorate from important problems and allow elected officials to look like they are actually doing something. 

These seemingly harmless bits of “protect-yourself-from-yourself” legislation, when multiplied over time, continually strip you of responsibility for yourself and transfer that freedom to the control of the state.  It’s easy to believe that legislation is never read before it is enacted.  How else could something as silly as PA No. 05-159 make it from Pee-wee’s Playhouse (aka the Connecticut State Legislature) into the statute book? 

Perhaps it’s as simple as the fine of “not more than one hundred dollars” becoming another revenue source to stuff the State’s pork barrel.  Sometimes simple is as simple does. 


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