Suppose long ago the local Departments of Motor Vehicles, perhaps under the auspices of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, started regulating the transportation of hazardous chemicals on public roads. They would inquire about destinations, routes, and safety protocols. Since the risks from these materials may be significant, this oversight might be a good idea. But at some point, assume they decided to monitor pretty much all travel on the public roads: No one should travel anywhere unless independent review concludes that the risks are reasonable in relation to the potential benefits. Cf. Nat’l Bioethics Advisory Commission, I Ethical and Policy Issues in Research Involving Human Participants ii (August 2001). In other words, no one should be judging whether to go anywhere for him or herself, until after someone else has decided it’s okay. See C. K. Gunsalus, The Nanny State Meets the Inner Lawyer: Overregulating While Underprotecting Human Participants in Research, 14 Ethics & Behavior 369-382 (2004).
At least for now in this hypothetical world (FN1), travel plans on private roads are not covered at all, and many travel plans on public roads are exempt from the DMV’s oversight. If it involves travel on public roads, however, only the DMV can judge it as exempt. Some common plans are pre-approved as exempt, e.g., travel to local grocery stores along certain routes. But you probably still need to send an e-mail to your DMV notifying them of your intent to use these pre-approved plans. They’d like to know what you’re up to.
Other travel plans, even those involving no more than the usual risks of daily life, are more complicated. Like trips to the grocery store, many common routes and destinations are also exempt from the DMV’s searching review, but they are not pre-approved. Therefore, you need to fill out some paperwork with the details of your travel plans. Will you be traveling during daylight hours? When did you last change the oil? How old are the windshield wipers? Do you really need to drive on the freeway? How’s the air pressure in the tires? Do you promise to wear your seat belt? Are you planning on fiddling with the radio while driving? Easy listening music or something with an aggressive beat?
After reviewing your travel plans, they might make some
suggestions about alternative routes or dates and times. (“There’s rain
scheduled for Friday. Why not make the trip on Monday?”) In the end, you’ll probably get to
go to your desired destinations, maybe even along the initially proposed routes.
But adult passengers should sign forms noting that they agreed to be your
passengers. Just to be safe. And don’t deviate from the approved routes without
permission. If a construction project starts up along one route -- a regular
event here in
FN1: There is support for even more regulation. See Nat’l Bioethics Advisory Commission report at vi (“Federal research protections should be uniform across all government agencies, academe, and the private sector[.]”) and 135 (“The recommendations regarding privately funded research and the removal of exemptions close some gaps in the current system and thus increase the amount of research subject to regulation.”).