When President Eisenhower met fact-to-face in 1959 with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, it truly was a major event. Every US president since then participated in similar “summits” with Soviet (and later, Russian) heads-of-state. In recent years, the term “summit” has been used to describe a wide range of meetings — domestic and international — including many far less important than meetings between the leaders of the two most powerful nations on earth. However, a conference scheduled to begin today and run though tomorrow, October 1st, in Washington, DC establishes once and for all that the term “summit” no longer carries any significance whatsoever.
This particular conference is sponsored by the US Department of Transportation. It is a “Distracted Driving Summit.” No less a personage than the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, is to convene the two-day “summit”; and over the course of these two days, heads and deputy heads of several federal, transportation-related offices will speak, as will a number of state-level officials. The vital importance of the federal government getting a handle on the scourge of persons driving vehicles while distracted, was underscored by having a “Notice” of the pending event appear in the Federal Register earlier this month. In that “Notice,” it was stated that participants would “address” a wide range of issues relating to driving distractions, and that they would try and come up with “possible solutions.”
The cost of the conference aside, and with all due respect to our Secretary of Transportation, this is absolute nonsense. “Driving distractions” have nothing — or should have nothing — to do with the federal government; and even if they did, why is it necessary to have a two-day summit to talk about them?
It is, I think, common knowledge that people are distracted by all manner of things while driving. They apply make-up, they eat, they drink, they talk to passengers, they bounce to music, they talk on the phone, they text, they read newspapers, their eyes wander, they use ”hand-held electronic devices.” In other words, if something can be done, someone will find a way to do it while driving. We also know that driving-while-distracted can cause accidents; sometimes deadly ones. Do we really need a federal “summit” to learn these things; things that every person who has studied for and obtained a driver’s license already knows?
Are the solutions to the problem of driving-while-distracted so mysterious and ill-defined that two full days of time of hundreds of government and government-related officials must be consumed pondering such things?
Try this for a solution: if someone is distracted while driving and causes an accident resulting in damage, injury or death, they are liable; and if such actions violate the criminal laws of a state, they should be prosecuted. In other words, simply enforce the laws already on the books. There. We’ve identified the problem, and we’ve articulated the solution. Now, couldn’t we please stop this silly summit?
Obviously, the powers-that-be in the nation’s capitol haven’t heeded my call. The fact of the matter is, this conference is not really designed to simply discuss the problem and identify a solution. The true agenda is to lay the groundwork and justification for increased government control of drivers and vehicles. Enforcing the laws already on the books, and simply using the money to which the government already has access more efficiently, is not the agenda the Department of Transportation or any other federal agency, cares to hear. What they live for, and what certainly will result from this “summit,” will be proposals to pass new laws, enhance existing laws, appropriate more taxpayer monies, draft more federal regulations, and mandate additional requirements on autmobile manufacturers and on companies that produce various devices that might distract drivers’ attention.
Now, if they were having a “summit” on reducing the scope, the power and the cost of the federal government — that would be a summit I’d gladly attend.