Today the Michigan House of Representatives is expected to take up the Senate version of legislation that would create a specific new "driving while texting" traffic offense. The measure had already passed the House with an important provision that was stripped out by the Republican-controlled Senate: It now would be a "primary" offense, meaning a driver could be stopped just because a police officer sees him or her texting.

With a secondary-offense only provision, I would be agnostic on the ban and not view it as per se unreasonable in the way of seatbelt or motorcycle helmet mandates, which infringe on my right to wrack my own body as I see fit (but not others').

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So I asked my Mackinac Center colleagues whether I have turned into a squish on nanny-statism. The consensus was that pro or con, in the form originally adopted by the House, this probably is not a hill for limited government defenders to die on. Some responses from Mackinac Center policy staffers:

"Seems pretty clear to me: Punish bad driving, not all manner of activities that may or may not lead to it. Why waste resources having police hunt down people who appear to be texting, when they could hunt down people who are, in fact, driving poorly?"

"In [an internship] program we had a passionate debate about whether the government should make drunk driving illegal. I think the arguments with drunk driving and texting possibly parallel each other, depending on what studies you believe for how dangerous texting is."

"I always feel that one skill that nanny-statists have is the ability to make libertarians and conservatives look stupid defending something on principle we shouldn't be doing. Texting while driving endangers others. Some personal liberties need to be given up as we learn more about their impact on society. Plus, if you had teenagers, you know they are doing that 24/7 while driving and it's going to kill someone. You and I may text once a 40-minute drive. Teens do it 30 to 40 times."

"I'd probably vote against it, but not out of any great conviction. Just a cranky libertarian urge to not fix something unless I'm given a darn good reason to believe that it is broken."

Some other comments and my responses:

"But if it isn't made illegal, then when that crash happens, the driver can't be charged with anything."

Actually, they could:

MCL 257.626  — Reckless Driving

(1) A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway ... in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

(2) A person who violates subsection (1) is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

"Will it require the officer to data mine phone records as the burden of proof is on him if I deny it?"

Interestingly, there was an amendment to the South Carolina version of the bill to ban just this.

"Several studies showing that 'walking while drunk' is much more dangerous than driving while drunk."

Dangerous to who? ("Congress shall make no law infringing the right of the people to kill themselves in whatever boneheaded way they choose, but may enact reasonable restrictions on killing others.")

"So even if there is not one iota of health detriment to 2nd hand smoke, [someone smoking in a restaurant] does infringe on my right not to smell like a pack of cigarettes."

Wait a minute! It's not your restaurant, you didn't pay for it, and no one forced you to go in! You do pay for the roads.