Reportedly the Michigan Legislature is considering legislation to prohibit young drivers from having more than one non-related passenger in the car.
Restrictions on minors are a public policy issue on which people of principle can reasonably disagree. On a similar bill several years ago, state Sen. Mickey Switalski, D-Roseville, eloquently made the emotional case for fewer restrictions, concluding with a very personal reminiscence. Here's what he said on the Senate floor on Oct. 6, 2004:
Mr. President, I rise in opposition to House Bill No. 4600. This bill would limit first-year drivers to one unrelated passenger in the car with them. Proponents believe this bill will reduce accidents among young drivers, but we already have addressed this problem with a highly successful graduated driver's license system.
This bill, while well-intentioned, violates the law of diminishing returns. We are greatly restricting the pursuit of happiness for a huge number of people for a theoretical improvement in safety. Are we willing to trade one of our God-given, inalienable rights so cheaply? How can we be so willing to punish all kids and all families so quickly because of a tiny fraction of drivers who behave irresponsibly? We don't take that approach with gun laws in this state, and we are right not to. We don't take everyone's gun rights away because of the criminal activities of a few. Why would we restrict this privilege which is far more widely exercised and cherished?
Are we willing to so callously ban the widespread practice of kids carpooling to school? This bill is so clumsy it would keep two kids from giving a stranded friend a ride home. Any decent person will give that ride anyway, and then we will have made them lawbreakers. Have we forgotten the experiences of our own youth?
Didn't you ever borrow your dad's car to go out for a concert, a game, or a hamburger with your friends? Isn't there a value to the exhilarating thrill of freedom you felt in doing that? Do you want to be responsible for banning that?
Mr. President, I'll never forget a steamy August night in the back seat of a car with Patty Otto on a double date. This bill will make the double date against the law. I refuse to believe this Senate could be that callous and cruel.
The statement must have been persuasive — the Senate defeated the bill, 17 to 21 (names here).
Sen. Switalski will depart the Senate at the end of this year due to term limits. His bid to replace 14-term U.S. Congressman Sander Levin was unsuccessful in the August Democratic primary election.
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