Are Distracted Driving Laws Threatening Our Civil Rights?

A San Francisco Bay Area DUI lawyer argues that law enforcement officers are abusing distracted driving laws to engage in unwarranted vehicle searches. He points out the unexpected civil rights ramifications of laws designed to make roads safer.

The lawyer, Peter Johnson, spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle, addressing the how laws banning talking on the phone, texting and eating behind the wheel give police more power to justify conduct that threatens Fourth Amendment rights protecting U.S. citizens against unreasonable searches.

People are stopped every day for suspected cell phone use or other diversions and then subjected to interrogation for unrelated matters and to searches of their automobiles and of their person. Without question driving while texting is dangerous, but an additional risk not considered by most people is the effect of increased regulation further eroding our civil rights?

Distracted driving is a serious problem in America, and in California especially, where 68,000 drivers were issued citations just last month. Talking on a phone behind the wheel is often considered worse than driving drunk, and the same can be said for texting.

Any law that enables pretext stops will inevitably be abused by some law enforcement officers. (How many DUIs started with a dirty-license-plate stop, for example.) The question is, is the threat of distracted driving worth the risk posed to our civil rights?

(Hat tip to Irving Washington!)

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