Limbaugh: Distracted Driving Regs a Slippery Slope to Totalitarian Rule

Last March, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh made clear that he’s not the sort to shed tears when cyclists get doored. Indeed, cyclists, in his mind, belong on the sidewalks instead of the streets.

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Turns out a cyclist’s right to the road isn’t the only area where Limbaugh has fundamental disagreements with Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation. During the course of a screed even more bombastic than usual, Limbaugh this week linked distracted driving regulations to brain cancer, communist dictatorships, and sinister government conspiracies.

The bit of news that got Limbaugh’s knickers in a twist — that Secretary LaHood is reportedly pondering a ban on all types of cell phones while driving, including Bluetooth-enabled hands-free devices. Already, LaHood has pushed hard against distracted driving in a campaign that has led to restrictions in many states.

LaHood’s statement to a Bloomberg reporter that an outright ban might be appropriate prompted this from Limbaugh:

What do you think the real reason might be that a federal government, a massive government might be interested in forcing people to not use their cell phones as much?  Remember, now, this is not an isolated incident cell phones created danger while driving. For years they have been telling us that cell phones cause brain cancer. They have been trying to scare us out of using our cell phones for a long time.

This is hardly true.

Though some inclusive studies — typically overhyped in the press — have suggested that cell phones may have some bearing on brain cancer rates, the National Cancer Institute is doing a poor job of scaring American if that is its aim. In a Q & A on the topic posted on its website, the National Cancer Institute notes:

Interphone researchers reported that, overall, cell phone users have no increased risk for two of the most common types of brain tumor?glioma and meningioma. In addition, they found no evidence of increasing risk with progressively increasing number of calls, longer call time, or years since beginning cell phone use. For the small proportion of study participants who reported spending the most total time on cell phone calls, there was some increased risk of glioma, but the researchers considered this finding inconclusive.

This goes on and on, but Limbaugh has never been one to let facts get in the way of his agenda. In this case, that led him to conclude that distracted driving regulations are a slippery slope to Stalin-style dictatorship:

Cell phones, like automobiles, are a singular expression and illustration of unlimited freedom. Cell phones allow people to organize, people of similar viewpoints, plan meetings and so forth, to, say, oppose the government. Totalitarian states, authoritarian states, statists wish to limit the communicative abilities of the population as much as possible. Look at the old Soviet Union. How much news do you think there is in North Korea? How much real news do you think there is in communist China? How much news is there in Cuba?  To authoritarian statist regimes, the free flow of information is the greatest threat to their existence.

Perhaps the half-million people injured each year by distracted drivers, or the friends and families of the 6,000 people killed each year by distracted drivers, may want to exercise their freedom as Americans to tell Limbaugh that he’s dead wrong.

  • Jeff

    Yes, automobiles certainly do represent total freedom, and spit in the face of centrally-planned governments. That is, as long as the federal government keeps subsidizing highway construction, providing tax breaks to oil companies, and using the military to ensure that the Middle East continues to provide us with cheap oil. And parking, of course–definitely need some government-subsidized parking. Oh, and zoning laws which make sure that it is indeed practical for us to live day to day by our automobiles.

    Unlike those stupid communist bicyclists who put forth physical effort in proportion to the distances they travel…

  • Eric B

    Everyone gets so upset about distracted driving laws, but when a passenger train derails because a conductor is texting or a crane topples off a building the very same people will be right there to blame cell phone use on the job. Now I know they would complain and say that you shouldn’t have to follow those rules if you are on your own time in your own car, but the fact is you are in a thousand pound vehicle licensed by the state to operate on public roads.

    People take this very lightly. Few people consider themselves to operating heavy machinery when driving their car but you are operating heavy machinery, you are not on your relaxing in your mobile living room or sticking it to the man at your “anti-communist-nazi-stalinist-gengiskhanist tele-rally”.

    Free speech is a right.
    Cars are not a right, they are a privilege you are licensed(all to easily) to use.

  • Bolwerk

    I agree with Rush about sidewalks. Cyclists should be on sidewalks. Specifically, wider sidewalks, that take a lane or two of traffic away and include a dedicated bike lane.

  • David_K

    Rush sez: “Cell phones, like automobiles, are a singular expression and illustration of unlimited freedom.”

    But consider this: Getting stoned, like piloting airplanes, is a singular expression and illustration of unlimited freedom.

    And unlimited freedom is the greatest Good Thing.

    Ergo: unless we allow jet pilots to get stoned, and to talk on cell phones, whilst they fly the friendly skies — without meddlesome government interference, without some pointy-headed Washington bureaucrat dictating pointless rules — we are not free. Neither you nor me, baby. Verily we live under the yoke of totalitarianism. And the yoke is beginning to hurt my neck.

    God bless America, and God bless Rush Limbaugh.

  • T Solo

    Even more laughable, a few looney moments later, Rush went on to say “Liberalism has killed more people than cancer.” You just can’t make this stuff up.

    Unfortunately he also insulted the thousands of families a year who lose loved ones to distracted driving when he asked, “When’s the last time you heard of a cell phone causing a crash?” I won’t bother with the Google search results that will provide him the answer: yesterday.

    Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m feeling nostalgic for a nation that values facts.

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