A Crazy Idea That Just Might Work
Whaaat? I can't hear you. You say they're thinking of banning Izods crossing the street? What do they have against preppy sportswear? Oh — iPods. Why, are they worried we're all gonna get …
Whoa! Watch where you're driving, buddy! You could have killed somebody! Anyway … you were saying?
It's funny, right? Here in New York a state senator named Carl Kruger is introducing legislation that would make it a crime to listen to an MP3 player while crossing the street. It would also become a crime to cross while using a phone, fiddling with a BlackBerry or playing a videogame. Groovin' while movin' would be punishable by a $100 fine — and, if possible, a tongue-lashing from me.
What kind of crazy person plays a videogame while crossing the street?
Sure, this proposal smacks of nanny-statism. Sure, it comes on the heels of other New York City legislation banning trans fat in restaurants and smoking in bars. Indeed, the law is sponsored by a guy who has also proposed bills to require full-size spare tires in rental vehicles, have all new teachers learn the Heimlich maneuver and suspend a guy's driver's license if he's convicted of boating while intoxicated, and vice versa. Not to mention a bill that requires theaters to provide free Zithromax for anyone seated next to a kid with a runny nose.
Well, that last one I made up. But the others are real. Clearly, Kruger is a safety junkie who never met a danger he didn't obsess about, magnify and set out to vanquish through sometimes first-in-the-nation legislation — as this iPod law would be.
So, it's easy to poke fun.
On the other hand, as a mother who would like to see a helmet law for children — not just for when they're biking, I mean one that requires helmets all the time (bricks fall! children trip!) — I can understand where the senator is coming from.
"I was prompted by the fatalities that occurred," said the senator during a cell phone conversation from the freeway.
A cell phone call on the freeway?
"I'm being driven," he hastened to add.
Since September, he said, there have been four MP3-related pedestrian deaths in New York City and these "were sort of a wake-up call to an issue that was going unaddressed." Already, he has gotten calls from politicians as far away as California, interested in his idea.
Just as a 2001 law here banned holding a phone while driving, his iPod proposal would force people, however resentfully, to pay a certain amount of attention to their surroundings.
Put that way, it sounds no nuttier than forcing drivers to get a vision check before they get a license. The notion is: If you can't see well, you can't drive well. In truth, if you can't hear well, you can't cross the street that well, either. You're out of it.
The problem is that most people are unwilling to give up a single nanosecond of Nano music. "I can't not listen to my iPod," they say. Or, "I use my eyes, not my ears."
One pedestrian, however, actually had his iPod turned off as he crossed Times Square. Carmelo Cortes, 26, said he was of two minds about the bill. "It's kind of stupid, kind of not," he said.
Exactly. It's stupid to think this law would ever work. "You there, bopping. Halt!" But it's kind of not stupid to think that there is something dangerous about having millions of pedestrians newly disengaged from reality.
So, how about a deal? Drivers start paying serious attention to pedestrians and vice versa, almost as if real lives were at stake.
Talk about an idea that'll never work.
Lenore Skenazy is a contributing editor at the New York Sun. (firstname.lastname@example.org), find out more about Lenore Skenazy and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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