20 April 2009
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How A Bill Becomes Law

I Can Dream, Can't I?

I just sent this letter, printed on paper, in an envelope, properly stamped, to my congressional representative.  I'll let you know the results.

The Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen
2442 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515-3011

Dear Cong. Frelinghuysen:

I am your constituent.  Will you be my hero?

Yes, I know the word "hero" is overused.  And in this case, it is perhaps a bit overwrought as well, since the request I have of you will not make a major difference in anyone's life, except perhaps yours.  I'm asking you to consider introducing a minor item of legislation.  This legislation will cost the taxpayer, the government, and industry nothing.  It will neither add to the bureaucracy nor to the burdens of anyone's life.  It won't force anybody to do anything he doesn't want to.  It is not self-serving in any way beyond that in which it will serve tens of thousands of your other constituents and millions more nationwide.  And, as I mentioned earlier, it will make you a hero, although no marksmanship, privation, or feats of derring-do will be required.

I drive an automobile.  Pretty much every day.  I go to work, I come home.  Sometimes I go somewhere else, and come home from there.  My car, as do many recent models, has a "navigation system."  When I start the car, twice a day or even more often, I am forced by my car's navigation system to "agree" to an unread and ignored page of obvious and unnecessary text.  The text says, in whatever verbiage the manufacturer's lawyers have devised, "be careful when using the navigation system."  Until I press that "agree" button, I cannot use the navigation system.  It is a stupid, gratuitous, distracting formality.  You probably know this because you most likely have one of these systems and are just as annoyed by it as I am.   In the general scheme of things, this is a small issue.  It takes me a couple of seconds to get this daily, totally unnecessary chore out of the way.  Multiply this by the tens of millions of navigation systems currently in use and you end up wasting, say, two seconds per press, multiplied by two trips per day, multiplied by (I'm guessing) ten million systems, and you have 40 million seconds per day.  In the aggregate that comes to 464 lives per year, or, coincidentally, just a bit more than one per Congressman.  YOU CAN SAVE THOSE LIVES!

How?  While I'm sure the law that finally results will be longer than this sentence, it amounts to:  "A disclaimer or other warning printed in the navigation system manual shall be considered the legal equivalent of a disclaimer or other warning displayed on the navigation system screen at vehicle startup."  In other words, if the manufacturer prints the warning in the manual, he doesn't have to display it, ad nauseam, every single time the vehicle is started.  Simple.  Non-compulsory.  Free.  And the Congressman who introduced this bill would demonstrate his thoughtfulness and concern for the overburdened populace in a minor but potentially very popular way. 

I hope you will consider introducing legislation to accomplish this goal.  If there is anything I can do to encourage you or to further its progress once introduced, please let me know.

Yours truly,

Richard Factor
Kinnelon, NJ

Toyota Prius navigation start-up warning screen I've ignored the warning at the left (Prius) about 2500 times and the one at the left (Ford Escape) only a few hundred.  Isn't reading it once in the manual preferable? Ford Escape navigation start-up warning screen

Note that my letter to Cong. Frelinghuysen ignores the mixed curse of many navigation systems, the inability to use them while the vehicle is in motion.  Of course it's entirely safe for a passenger to manipulate one, even if arguably dangerous for the driver.  Maybe the "passenger detector" used by the seat belt warning and the air bag could also activate the navigation system for in-motion use?

But let's do one law at a time...

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 "Eternal Flame"
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The first time I ever landed an airplane on a turf runway.  I didn't participate in the "precision bombing contest" in which a bag of flour is dropped on a target on the field.  Sigh.

Basin Harbor Fly-In T-shirt, Vergennes VT., circa 1990
Richard Factor

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