A Blanket Law is a phrase I’ve used for a while that describes a law, regulation or police crackdown that applies and targets everyone, based on the actions of a few. For the sake of this article, examples of a blanket laws can range from Distracted Driving (Texting while driving) to Jaywalking, or a little bit of both, see this: New Jersey town bans texting while walking.
A Blanket Law is born at 8:00 a.m. on the side of the highway while your driving to work. You know when you hit a pocket of unusual traffic and up in the distance you see the familiar blue and red flashing lights. All you can think about is damn, am I gonna make it to work on time.. that quickly fades away and is replaced with a bit of excitement as you begin to pass the scene of an accident, then in no time you’re back, racing off to work and it quickly fades from your mind.
Later that night you’re watching the news and there it is, the accident you drove past this morning, you get all excited and turn up the volume “Two People Dead in a Horrific Accident” all you can think of is that you were there, you saw it, you think it’s horrible, maybe you tell your friends, or spouse who’s lying beside you in bed.
What you didn’t see were the two people being taken away in an ambulance, under blankets, pronounced dead at the scene by the people who had a close up view.
Another thing not seen was the one passenger who miraculously survived and told officers, the last thing she saw was her boyfriend looking down at his phone and then the back of another car, then nothing.
Over the coming weeks the mothers of the deceased rally in a very passionate attempt to make sure this never happens again. They talk with every politician in the state about the issue, they state that the victims are their children and the culprit is a cell phone. They state that the thing that took their children from them is still out on the roads, waiting for it’s next victim. They take on support from police who are all to familiar with what they’re talking about.
A month later you flip on the news and see some politician grandstanding with a lady on his left and another on his right.
…or maybe you watch this politician, clearly shaken up, passing a law against texting while driving, maybe the trooper in the background was there that day, maybe not.
You listen for a moment and they tell you, “Texting while driving is a “National Epidemic!”Â We will crack down hard on any law breakers. You look away with distasteÂ thinking …are you effing serious, who the eff are you!? ..great, now cops can pull me over for making a phone call, effing cops.
A Blanket Law has just been born.
A few weeks later you’re on your way to work and dial up your mom, you put the phone to your ear, before she can answer, you hear sirens and see blue lights in your mirror.
You hang up frantic, checking to make sure you belt is buckled and you pull over. A state trooper gets out and walks over, peers into your window with a stern and unforgiving look. You give him your info, he runs it, and gives you a fine for distracted driving. You get mad, and protest, questioning him.. he puts his hand on his sidearm and says “I could arrest you right now” You give up, furious. Without saying another word he jumps into his cruiser and peels off. Your first thought is, what a fuc%^$# assh&^@
What you’ll never know is he was one of the troopers you passed on the highway months earlier, he was the first one to show up at the accident you drove by. He was the one who reached into the car as frantic as you just were, checking for signs of life, covered in blood. He watched those 2 kids carted off, dead under blankets.
Under those 2 blankets, a Blanket Law was born, and it now applies to you, now you’re the culprit, innocent or guilty. Fair or unfair, those familiar words on the ticket stare you in the face, IT’S THE LAW ..you cringe in anger -
The situation I just described may have happened anywhere. I want to bring it up because it’s important for people to hear both sides of the story. Often times we react to emotion, this can be seen on both sides of the blue line. About a month ago ABC told us: “Avid texters beware: Fort Lee, N.J. police said they will begin issuing $85 jaywalking tickets to pedestrians who are caught texting while walking.” Police Chief Thomas Ripoli of Fort Lee NJ said: “It’s a big distraction. Pedestrians aren’t watching where they are going and they are not aware, he goes on to say “the borough, which is home to approximately 35,000 residents, has suffered three fatal pedestrian-involved accidents this year. He hopes his crackdown on people who display dangerous behavior while walking will make his town safer, but not everyone is on board with the idea of issuing $85 tickets.”
In my mind, he reacted to an emotional situation (death) with emotion (protect), at some point his officers had to respond to scene of the 3 accidents he mentioned above. People from all around the world flooded the Fort Lee Police Department with phone calls and emails, some took to the streets in anger, furious about the crackdown and impediment on people’s civil liberties. Because of this Ripoli later retracted his statements about the crackdown saying that it had nothing to do with texting, and that it was instead about Jaywalking “All I said was that people text, they’re on their cell phone or they’re on their iPods, and they’re not paying attention, and basically it came out different I guess, he went on to say “folks who are texting while walking in Fort Lee are indeed issued a $54 jaywalking ticket … but only if they also happen to be jaywalking at the same time.”
Blanket Laws are taking hold hold everywhere, we live in Democratic Republic (not a full democracy) where lawmakers can listen to the minority and make up laws that apply to us all, in this case, it was the 2 mothers mentioned in the story above. I’m on the fence about this sort of lawmaking. On one hand, I see it from the side of Law Enforcement, and the 2 mothers, I get angry thinking that some fool did this, and put in a political position, I would probably campaign passionately against it, that’s just my protective nature. On the other hand, I see it from the side of the citizen who is told you aren’t watching where you”re going, you are not aware and think, who the hell are you to tell me I’m not aware, I’m sorry you had to deal with 3 deaths, it’s not my fault, get over it. Spur of the moment crackdowns like these and finger pointing blanket laws widen the divide between people and police and sew confusion and distrust, but at the same time they save lives. I’m on the fence, what’s your take on it?