DOA: Bills Aimed At Distracted Drivers, Human Microchips

Two proposed Colorado laws that generated wisecracks and mirth – as well as earnest defenders – are dead on arrival.

Rep. Paul Weissmann’s plan to double the amount of fines for “driving while distracted” is headed nowhere, as is Rep. Mary Hodge’s fledgling effort to outlaw human microchip implantation.

Among the concerns about Weissmann’s bill, detailed last week by Colorado Confidential, was it gave law enforcement too much discretion over determining when a driver actually was “knowingly districted.” The proposal would have targeted drivers who commit traffic violations while on their cellphones, using headphones or computers, recorders or digital music players, as well as grooming, reading, eating and drinking.Weissmann, a Democrat from Louisville, had argued his bill represented  “a reasonable approach, as it is still legal to do those distracting activities. It just costs you more if you commit a moving violation while doing it.”

Earlier in the week he joked that the originating idea for the bill, “was actually a phone call, from his car, from a Libertarian upset because someone cut him off on the road while talking on his phone.” The Libertarian Party of Colorado, which advocates for limited government, had emerged in strong opposition.

“When will our elected officials understand that the people of Colorado don’t need to be told when and where they can listen to music or eat a Big Mac?” asked Libertarian Party chairman Travis Nicks. “The unintended consequences from this type of legislation divert crucial law enforcement resources from tracking down real criminals to increasing revenue for their jurisdiction.”

Hodge’s microchip bill, meanwhile, has been abandoned after the Brighton Democrat said more research is needed. The Rocky Mountain News reported last week that Hodge introduced the measure at the urging of a librarian in Adam’s County who was concerned about the potential abuse of microchipping at the hands of Big Brother in a post-Patriot Act eavesdropping era.

The Denver daily quoted from an e-mail that former Republican Rep.-turned-political consultant Rob Fairbank sent out, “Is this a problem? Do we have gangs of post-apocalyptic Terminator-style cyborgs roaming the streets of Colorado implanting citizens with microchips?” Fairbank joked. “One of my legislator friends said, ‘If we can’t implant microchips on people, how will we know when the black helicopters arrive?’ “

However, at least 17 other states have considered similar measures designed to prevent potential abuses of microchip technology in humans, including New Hampshire, Georgia, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Last year Wisconsin became the first state to adopt a law that prohibits the required implanting of microchips in humans.

Human microchips, which were just recently developed, have been used, among other things, by hospitals to retrieve the medical records of patients. Some companies have implanted microchips in their employees to use as electronic keys and for other security purposes.

According to a 2006 Wisconsin legislative brief:

“As with most technology, [microchip implants] can be seen as a timesaving convenience. Some night clubs in Europe already allow patrons with microchip implants to pay with the electronic codes they carry under their skin, and some in the U.S. have experimented with programming computers to read radio frequency identification implanted microchips to accomplish such tasks as unlocking a car with a wave of the hand.”

As noted in Wisconsin’s legislative brief, concerns over potential health and privacy risks are not limited to one librarian in Adams County, Colorado:

“Civil libertarians warn that human implantation has not received enough debate and may put us on a slippery slope toward a system of human numbering.  They contend that human micro