The PJ Tatler

Is Texting While Driving the New DWI?

Slipped into a transportation omnibus bill during the waning moments of the legislative session, a new provision will soon take effect in Minnesota, steeply increasing the fine for texting while driving. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The fine for the first offense is $50, but that has risen to $225 for subsequent violations. With court costs, the fine could exceed $350, said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis…

As a reminder, the law makes reading, composing or sending emails or text messages illegal. It’s also against the law to access the Internet while a vehicle is in motion or part of traffic, including stopped at a traffic light.

Could this signal a trend parallel to ever increasingly legal consequences for driving while intoxicated? It’s a easy win for politicians, municipalities, and law enforcement agencies. The former garner brownie points for bolstering public safety. The latter two gain increased revenue and further justification for budgets, staff, and so forth.

Like driving under the influence, texting while driving is certainly dangerous. People who cause harm to others due to such negligence should certainly face civil and criminal penalties. But at what point does the response to reckless behavior cross the line from genuine rights-protection to draconian rights-violation? Should we ruin someone’s life, as a DUI can, because they might have ruined another’s?