Friday, April 22, 2016

Driving Home The Need For Responsibility

An ongoing theme of these posts has been that when we don’t take responsibility, we give up some freedom.  Another recent example makes that very clear.

According to this Washington Post report New York may be the first state to pass a law allowing police to access a cell phone after an accident to determine if the driver was texting at the time of the accident.  The proposal is “causing concern among some civil liberties groups, who say that it could interfere with people's cellphone privacy.”  The state counters with the argument that the so-called Textalizer, which takes its name from the Breathalyzer, does not capture the content of a message but “only determines if the phone was in use at the time of the accident.”

“The bill includes language that gives law enforcement ‘implied consent’ to having one's phone tested at the scene of the crash.”  (Note:  driving is a privilege, not a right, so the government can add reasonable conditions – like being 16 years old.)

A group advocating methods to reduce distracted driving has promoted this idea.  The need for this additional measure then, arises from an increase in distracted driving, especially related to cell phone use.  Several years ago this was not an issue, but as more people (not necessarily you and me) abused the responsibility to pay attention while driving, we all are subject to what some consider another intrusive practice.

But the continual erosion of freedom is not the primary reason to act responsibly.  Research presented in the Harvard Business Review bears this out.

 “When we fail, we internally pinpoint what the authors [of the study] call an ‘attribution of responsibility – namely taking personal ownership for the outcome or blaming it on external circumstances.’ If you take personal ownership, their research shows you’re much more likely to learn from and work harder after that mistake.”  Those test subjects who put the blame on outside factors were less likely to succeed in a follow-up exercise.

In other words, those who play the victim don’t even take the time to figure out what went wrong and take corrective action.  They just assume everything is beyond their control.  It’s easier to turn power (and along with that some of their choices) over to someone else and not have to deal with it or admit failure.  That’s when the politicians come along promising to “fight for you,” which of course only leads to more regulation and less freedom.  Not acting responsibly becomes a vicious cycle.

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