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If a warning label falls in the forest and no one reads it …

Submitted by on Wednesday, 22 September 2010 No Comment

I thought I was as shocked as I could possibly be by a warning label last fall, when I bought a pack of lip balm that included a five-line disclaimer.

That was before I was fixing lunch a few weekends ago and noticed that hot dogs were dangerous, and not because of the fat, sodium and nitrates.

CHOKING WARNING: For children under 6, cut hot dogs lengthwise and crosswise into small bite-size pieces. Children should always be seated and supervised while eating.

No more franks for you, Boots. You’re a year under the legal age, and life’s too short to cut sausages lengthwise and crosswise for a kindergartener.

Actually, I already knew hot dogs were “dangerous.” The American Academy of Pediatrics told me so in February when it called for a product redesign. The warning label must be a preemptive strike.

And then this week comes another ridiculous proposal. U.S. Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood wants to put warning labels on cell phones to remind people that using one while driving is dangerous.

Hmmmph. That must be why five states have banned all cell phone use while driving, making it a primary offense to boot. That means that the officer doesn’t have another reason to pull you over. Seeing you use the phone is enough.

It’s not that LaHood’s heart isn’t in the right place. Recent studies indicate that distracted driving is a bigger danger than drunken driving. LaHood’s also hot about cars that are beginning to resemble entertainment centers, and he’s right about that, too.

Audi already has his answer to that one: A warning label. “Please only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely.”

As if either label would do one bit of good.

I am warning labeled to death. They’re so ubiquitous that they barely register anymore, unless I want to make fun of them. They’re on my car, at the gas pumps, on children’s medication.

My hair spray cautions me to not smoke while styling my locks, and my salad dressing reminds me to twist the twist-off cap. The Wii warns us not to play if we’re sleepy – as if any serious gamer is going to listen to that. Big Guy’s discharge papers from the hospital when he was 4 prohibited him from driving for a week after his surgery.

Sorry, Mr. Secretary, but your proposed warning label doesn’t have a chance of being heard over the din of inane warnings that already screech at us on a daily basis.

You want to curb distracted driving? Make it illegal in the other 45 states. Changing the law in California resulted in a 70 percent drop in texting while driving in a single year.

I’m thinking that’s because flashing blue lights will get your attention every time. A warning label, not so much.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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