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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Disney texting crackdown: Has the Nanny State come to Hollywood?

Disney_Stewart I'm already feeling a little safer as I've been driving around L.A. today knowing that the Walt Disney Co. has announced a new policy threatening employees with all sorts of punishments, including firing, if they text while they drive. It's unclear exactly what prompted this new policy, though I'm guessing it had something to do with a narrow miss involving Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny ("Watch the woad, you wascally wabbit!"),

But seriously, the Disney action offers a fascinating new wrinkle on the perennial American cultural debate over personal freedom vs. social responsibility. If you're a libertarian, you probably see Disney's ban as the latest example of the horrible Nanny State in action, while if you're a liberal, you probably view the ban as a necessary restriction aimed at saving lives. I'm definitely in the latter camp, since what good is all that precious personal freedom after you've been flattened like a pancake by some distracted studio production exec, furiously texting away to some equally distracted talent agent as his BMW crashes into the back of your car?

After all, accidents involving people using their mobile devices have caused thousands of deaths already, prompting states like California to make it illegal to drive while using a hand-held cellphone. I know, I know, this is surely the least observed, not to mention least enforced, law since Prohibition. But it's a law that's surely worth enforcing. Just the other day, I was almost rear-ended by a driver who (since he was on the phone) didn't notice until the last second that I was stopped at a green light because the lady in front of me hadn't noticed that the light had changed since she was staring down into her lap, the universal body posture of an inveterate text message addict.

I'd be lying if I said that I haven't been guilty of similar behavior on occasion myself. But isn't that all the more reason that the state--or its corporate equivalent, Nanny Disney--do something to encourage some small semblance of driving safety? Feel free to take issue with me here if you disagree, but as a parent, I'd be happy to give up a few small freedoms in exchange for knowing there was less of a chance of my wife and my kid and my mom and my next-door neighbor and, what the heck, even my editor being turned into road kill by some distracted driver. Fifty years ago libertarians argued against seat belts for the same reason, saying that ordinary citizens should have the right to decide for themselves whether they wanted to take more or less risk on the road.

But when your risk-taking, via texting, lessens my chance of survival, then I'm ready to suckle up to the teat of the Nanny State. For my money, texting while driving is a lot like getting a nice window seat on a plane--it's a privilege, not a right.

Photo: "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart posing with "Star Wars"-inspired Disney characters Stormtrooper Donald Duck and Princess Leia Minnie Mouse. Credit: Todd Anderson/Disney via Getty Images.


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I would define myself as a libertarian, but I do not agree with your politically-based assumptions. Texting while driving, in my opinion, has nothing to do with this supposed "Nanny State," but is rather, in essence, stupidity and recklessness personified, and I agree with Disney's ban.

it's a pretty easy solution, and doesn't require government or private regulation: don't text while you drive. amazingly, drivers for the previous 90 years managed to drive their entire lives without ever doing it once.

but if for some reason you just can't bear the personal responsibility of complying with the law, then don't work for Disney.

Last time I checked, Disney is not an arm of the government. People choose to work for them, and can quit at any time without being thrown in jail. Disney is 'threatening' them with punishment for doing things which are ILLEGAL. If the ban extends to texting while driving on personal time then I think that's excessive but it still doesn't qualify as being part of the 'Nanny State.'

Remember "your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins"? Unless we want complete chaos with our personal freedom, there have to be limits! Personal electronics-especially phones and blackberries-have no place behind the wheel of a vehicle. Would you read a paperback novel or a newspaper while driving? I hope not, and it's the same thing. Disney is moving for responsible behavior in it's employees. More should do the same.

Sorry, Patrick Goldstein, but the words "nanny state" refer to just that: a governmental entity. There's absolutely no reason why an EMPLOYER can't or shouldn't encourage safety and health among its employees by sanctioning/ rewarding certain behaviors. There is no Constitutional right to drive while text-messaging. Get over it. And hang up your phone when you're behind the wheel. The life you save may be mine (you obviously don't care about your own).

Disney is fascist. They have no business butting into anyone's personal life.

Texting while driving is illegal already. Leave it to the state to enforce laws, not corporate busy-bodies. As much as I love Disney-as-entertainment, Corporate Disney is almost as Evil as Microsoft.

Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd are Warner Bros. characters, not Disney.

I think we live in a culture where business people need to 'hit the ball over the net'. Teens consider it rude not to reply immediately to texts. Home schedules would grind to a halt without immediate communication. We are conditioned to pursue this level of efficiency but we are all supposed cease this behavior once we sit in our respective 5,000 pound pieces of steel and glass. Anyone can win an argument in a forum like this by saying "Just put the phone away" - but we can see its just not happening.

I just read that 72% of teens text daily - many text more 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and its not going away.

I decided to do something about it after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down employee's phones, I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based texting auto reply app smartphones. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

Erik Wood, owner

What's the value of having a rule that no one adheres to? It diminshes personal responsibility. It also diminishes personal awareness. Sometimes I learn by doing the mistake and then correcting for it. No one will know texting is dangerous until they get into a mishap, as you have shown. Near accidents happens as well as real accidents. Excessive rule making means no one will take the rule seriously. After a while, people won't care. For Disney to take this on, it will have to be a firing offense. Otherwise, a reprimand will be like a slap on the wrist.

"what good is all that precious personal freedom after you've been flattened like a pancake by some distracted studio production exec"

What a horrible example at so many levels. The Exec will get away with it. All powerful people get away with "murder" practically. I once worked for a company that had real ethics violations. You know what, they instituted company wide ethics classes and regulations, yet the ethics violations continue for their powerful leadership. The little guys get punished with the stupid new ethics slogans.

At another level, freedom is still freedom. Freedom is better than living with less of it. I guess the better comparison is living with a paycheck is better than none. Yeah, I live with the rule if I can get paid for following it. However, this does show that employers can encroach on employees' freedoms while they are off the clock. To me, its a trivial reason to fire someone, but maybe its another way for Disney to do the deed for their problem employees.

Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd would be driving at Six Flags, not Disneyland.

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