Are required eco-driving lessons an affront to personal liberty?

Whether you agree with the argument or not, you might understand how global warming legislation might be viewed as a government intrusion into the private sector. Same might be said of  the “no child left inside” bill? But mandating “eco-driving” habits be taught to teenagers? While this seems relatively harmless, a bill introduced by Detroit Democrat Bert Johnson into the Michigan legislature has spurred debate over the proper roles of both driver’s education and government.

According to the Detroit News, Rep. Johnson’s bill would require driving schools to promote a number of “green” lessons, including:

  • The importance of carpooling and using public transportation.
  • The benefits of fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • How to maximize vehicle economy through maintenance and driving techniques.
  • The recycling of fluids and parts.”

Again, seems relatively harmless. Driving instructor Gary Matuszak sees mandating these lessons as “long overdue,” and claims he’s taught them to students for years. Driving school owner Pam Morse, however, believes the bill smacks of “political correctness”: “The important thing is to learn how to drive safely, so what does ‘being green’ have to do with anything?”  (In fairness, she’s right in another comment that driving schools would have to absorb the costs of these lessons). And Russ Harding, senior environmental policy analyst for the Mackinac Center, a free market research organization, views the bill as “…another attempt by the government telling us how to live. Almost every day, they issue some new type of requirement where government tries to impose an elitist view on the people.”

I’ve got to be honest: this strikes me a bit like the episode of Northern Exposure in which the town council had fierce ideological battle over providing residents with a dumpster. But perhaps I suffer from the same elitist view as Rep. Johnson. So you tell me: is requiring eco-driving lessons over the line?

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