Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at

Before my mother was allowed to drive, she had to prove to her father that she could change the oil, fiddle with the spark plugs and fix a flat tire, all on her own and without help. He didn’t want his daughter stranded or dependent on strangers if the car broke down.

Pretty progressive for a guy born in 1902.

Being responsible for your things was big in our family, and that included knowing how to fix them. None of us are electricians or carpenters, but we could all handle basic maintenance and small repairs. For everything else, we called on the local repair shop or mechanic.

These have been thinning out as of late. You don’t see so many repair shops in the downtowns and the days of the car on blocks in the driveway getting new brake pads are over.

It’s tempting to start quoting Depression-era slogans and crank on about people being too lazy to repair, but the reality is a lot of what we have in our lives now isn’t meant to be repaired – or allowed to.

Therefore, when I saw Question 4 on the upcoming ballot for November, the citizen initiative “An Act Regarding Automotive Right to Repair,” my first thought was “obviously.”


The “right to repair” movement has really been picking up steam in Europe, where the conversation has expanded to all sorts of household necessities (and cellphones), but it started here in the U.S. In 2012, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law very similar in nature to what we will vote on.

So, why would anyone think we shouldn’t be allowed to fix our own stuff? Tech.

Everything has a computer now. Everything is “web-enabled.” Everything is super complicated.

Opponents argue that these days, the average person (or even small-town mechanic) simply does not have the proper know-how to safely repair the tech in question, particularly cars.

It gets scary when they argue that releasing platform access to the technology to make the repair would render the vehicle vulnerable to hackers. Hackers who might choose to take control of the steering, for example. And there, in a nutshell, is what I see as the bigger issue.

It seems to me that hackers have proven time and again that they are already better at hacking than any corporation is at building firewalls. They don’t need to be granted access. Take the semi-regular data breaches at major banks and insurance companies, for one.


So maybe what we really ought to be thinking about is what we are creating in the first place.

Do we really need our cars, let alone our toasters and refrigerators, to be connected to the internet in the first place? We got along before.

I see the emotional appeal of digital flares going out to the authorities in the event you are hurt in an accident or stranded, but if we look at actual probabilities, is it really worth it? Even if we say “yes” for our cars, what about the rest of it all?

Honestly, when they told me that the new washing machine was internet-enabled, I chose a different machine. I do not need to text my laundry, my fridge doesn’t need to surf the web.

The Massachusetts law has, just this summer, been freed from the red tape and put into action – so real-world solutions to the tech concerns should be coming along any day now. As more and more states adopt this law, the automakers currently refusing to comply will get over themselves and get on board. Solutions that respect a consumer’s autonomy will surface.

For myself, with each new argument the opposition poses, that ’68 Jensen Interceptor I’ve always wanted looks more and more reasonable. I’ll also be voting “yes” on Question 4.

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