If you have ever uttered “there ought to be a law …”, then seeing a dog on a driver’s lap may have been one of those times. I have no patience for people who think this is a good idea, and expressed my opinion a time or two on the ridiculousness of such a risky practice. However, no matter how much of a good feeling one gets thinking about promoting a law, there is the far worse law of unintended consequences.
North Carolina Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Scotland) this week proposed a law to ban dogs/exotic animals on drivers’ laps, stating that: “It protects the motorist. It protects the animal. It’s just common sense.” He is not wrong about common sense, but that is also the reason there should not be a law on this or many other so-called common sense laws. There are other common-sense actions arguably dangerous for driving, such as talking to a child in the back seat, eating a burger, changing the radio station or playlist on your phone, playing guitar, playing a tuba, reading George Orwell’s “1984” (I hear all the good Democrats are reading it lately), and the most risky of all – driving while driving.
I bring these points up to show there “ought to be a law” for many things while driving, but at a certain point, what are we trying to do? Are we helping or are we causing other problems and just making ourselves feel good?
At the end of the day this law will be added to hundreds of other laws for the road. Many of these are rarely if ever enforced, such as laws against texting, talking on the phone, jaywalking, speeding, not wearing seatbelts, cracked windshields, broken tail lights, car seats, etc. etc.
We have a police system already burdened with society’s feel-good laws meant to protect us from ourselves. These oftentimes-unenforced laws lead to increased chances for police to selectively pick and choose, or profile, who they pull over. These types of laws, when they are enforced, increase the occurrence of police encounters, thus raising the likelihood of the tragic incidents we see on the news. Potentially, these feel-good laws are used as the initial reason to pull a driver over to then search for additional infractions, all of which puts people at risk.
The dog law is not really about the dog law. There are more serious potential unintended consequences:
- Precious officer time is spent to monitor dog owners, cracked-windshield owners, parents, and teenagers, turning all into criminals at one point or another. (More info here)
- Arguably excessive regulations cause people to lose awareness of their surrounding, leaving safety issues for government to decide instead of themselves. (More info here)
- The community slowly loses faith in the police, creating a perception the police are here to penalize, not protect. (More info here)
I must say I believe nearly all officers joined the force to do the right thing, to protect and serve their communities. But government officials desiring to create feel-good laws for our officers to enforce are doing them a disservice. Actively finding ways to increase police encounters only raises the likelihood for claims of profiling and corruption. Also, any time an officer pulls someone over there is a huge risk to that officer with no way to tell how the driver is going to react. Using these types of laws to force our respected loved ones into danger over a dog or cracked windshield is ridiculous.
If we respected the police, like most of us do, we should promote a force ready, willing, and able to protect and serve – not a group we demand do our common sense work for us at their and their loved ones’ expense.
(First published at Capitol Connection)