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Commentary Detail

Democracy in Action — Sometimes Inspiring, Other Times Puzzling
Commentary by: Terry Jones
Aired May 27, 2009

The legislative process sometimes yields silly outcomes.

For example, take this year’s recently completed session of the Missouri General Assembly.

One of the laws it passed makes it a misdemeanor to send or read a text message while driving. But the law only applies to those 21 and younger, seeming to imply that with one’s twenty-second birthday comes the dexterity to text and drive simultaneously.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Jefferson County State Senator Ryan McKenna, is among the first to acknowledge the 21-and-younger clause makes no sense. He wanted a ban on texting for all drivers. But to win over enough votes for passage, he needed to compromise on an age limit.

Another law repeals the requirement for motorcycle riders 21-and-over to wear a helmet on all roads and highways except interstates. Instead of the classic American motto “live free or die", the motorcyclist version in Missouri becomes “live free (to not wear a helmet) and die (if you crash)".

Ironically for the motorcyclists who advocated for the repeal, including those who say they will still wear a helmet but did not want government requiring them to do so, they will pick most of the tab. More motorcycle accidents without helmets means more serious brain injuries that are expensive to treat and often create decades-long disability. That, in turn, will mean higher insurance premiums for the motorcyclists.

Democracy in action — sometimes inspiring, other times puzzling.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Terry Jones

Terry Jones


Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.

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