Driving is a right, not a privilege

Robert J Hansen

Unimpeded Mobility: The right to drive

California Highway Patrol vehicle at the State Capitol June, 2021.(Photo by Robert J Hansen)

Nothing symbolizes and embodies American freedom like the automobile and though driving is not a Constitutionally protected right, unimpeded mobility is.

While there is a responsibility to be licensed and follow traffic laws, driving is essential to economic well-being and upward mobility and, therefore, a fundamental right under the Ninth Amendment, not a privilege.

No tool is more vital to the average American’s ability to be self-sufficient and their pursuit of happiness.

If law enforcement continues to blatantly violate American’s rights and liberties protected by the Constitution, there may not be any political will to retain our mobility when automated vehicles and green cities arrive.

The Supreme Court referenced American’s right to mobility in its opinion in Scott v. Sanford (1857), in which the Court’s opinion made mention of American’s right to unimpeded mobility that officers would not have been able to stop Scott had he been white.

The Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental clause under the Ninth Amendment protected “the right to enter any other State whenever they [citizens] pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at any hour of the day or night without molestation.”

African-Americans explicitly could not, according to the Court.

American mobility has been impeded and restricted since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carroll v United States (1925), which essentially stripped Americans of their Fourth Amendment rights.

The right to drive and the car gave Black Americans the ability to leave the south, women a chance to leave their homes and husbands and immigrants to find work anywhere throughout this county.

Carroll v Unites States has established and set a precedent for the subsequent rulings despite repealing Prohibition in 1933 and fueled mass incarceration in the United States.

It’s not a coincidence that women, black people, immigrants and poor people are the same groups still fighting for equal treatment.

American’s right to unimpeded mobility needs restoring before the personal mobility of low-income urban and rural communities is further impeded and restricted than already are.

Mode shift aims to make city residents rely on public transportation, bikes, and green cities with ride-sharing.

Traffic enforcement laws should no longer be allowed to invalidate and ignore Fourth and Ninth Amendment rights of privacy, unreasonable searches, and mobility unimpeded.

American’s will not think anything is wrong when city governments try to cram everyone on a bus, in their apartment, or make them walk.

Even when including San Francisco Bay Area’s public transportation figures, a statistical outlier, around five percent of America’s labor force relies on public transportation to commute to work.

America’s labor force is roughly 63 percent of its total population which is about 160 million people, according to Census data. Almost 120 million drive alone to work every day, with another 14 million carpooling.

Public transportation will not provide the utility to double that five percent, let alone offer transportation for half the country anytime soon.

If there were any way to be more efficient than private vehicles, American ingenuity would have figured it out. It has thus far.

The American highway system was the successor to the transcontinental railroad and the country’s primary mode of personal travel. It has provided personal mobility to every citizen and is responsible for creating the most productive economy in the world for over 120 years.

Was there another way America could have become the world leader in GDP without nearly everyone going to work, in their car, at their own pace and schedule?

On sheer mass alone, the US will not allow for the green city model to work everywhere in this country. It is not Japan or any European country.

United States is the single largest market globally, which provided the basis for the rapid expansion of American industry and the point where the U.S. by the 1890s had the most powerful economy on the planet.

No tool or right has evened the playing field for those in poverty, minorities, women and immigrants like the automobile and American’s right to drive.

The development of the transcontinental railroad was the outstanding achievement that propelled the United States through the Industrial Revolution to become the economic powerhouse it is today.

Because the railroad connected east to west, commerce was now possible on a mass scale.

“The Constitution provided the legal framework for a single national market for trade goods; the transcontinental railroad provided the physical framework,” Henry W. Brands, Texas University History department chair said.

The automobile and the mobility it provides individuals is second to none and cannot be replaced or surrendered if American’ are to continue their pursuit of happiness.

Unimpeded mobility is not a privilege. It is a right, and so is American’s right to drive without law enforcement impediment.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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