Sometimes it seems the only advantage of a small democracy is that the corruption is more transparent. This morning's news: New Zealand has joined the shameful list of countries that ban cellphone use while driving, unless you're using a hands-free set.
All commentators agree that the evidence is quite unambiguous: hands-free cellphone use is just as dangerous as handheld. Yet no-one seems to question that part. In particular the ACT party, which makes a lot of noise about opposing government interference in private lives, is saying what a great idea it is.
Because ACT, like most right-wing "liberal" parties, couldn't care less about government interference so long as there's an option to buy your way out of it. Take away the hands-free clause, and they'd be yapping like an abandoned Pomeranian.
Memo to all governments everywhere: Good laws are ones that are just as inconvenient for rich people as they are for poor people. If you can pay to get away with something - that's not a law, it's a corruption.
Cellphone operators are in favour (well, naturally - it expands the cellphone-accessories market). Police are in favour, although their motives are less clear. After all, there's already a perfectly good law against careless driving. Talking heads are spouting incredulity that some people actually have the nerve to text while driving, taking their eyes off the road for up to five seconds at a time! What are they thinking?
Well, I've done that. If I'm sitting in a traffic jam, with no prospect of moving at all for 30 seconds or more, why exactly is it dangerous for me to take my eyes off the road for a few five-second intervals?
But does the law take account of traffic conditions? Does it hell.
It could be worse. In New South Wales, apparently it's now illegal to cross the road while wearing earphones.
Now, I'm walking to work these days. 25 minutes each way. It's some quality iPod time. In the process, I have to cross five roads. Only one of these crossings is at all hazardous; of the other four, one is at a zebra crossing, and three are extremely quiet roads - I can just look both ways, then stroll across with no moving cars in sight at all. But in NSW, I'd have to take the earphones out and interrupt my enjoyment of my podcast.
Five times. Each way.
Way to incentivise me to get back in my car, guys.