Why do we have seat belt laws at all? Steve Hammer I was driving home the other day, minding my own business, when I saw that traffic was at a standstill on Keystone near Glendale Mall. This isn’t unusual, so I just sat back and waited for the traffic to clear. When I got closer to Glendale, I saw a red sign and several police officers. “Seat Belt Enforcement Zone,” the sign said, and the cop was radioing a description of my car to officers ahead of him. They stopped me and wrote me a $25 ticket for not obeying the seat belt law. I’m not a dumbass, and I was in fact guilty, so I was meek and mild as the deputy wrote out his ticket. Later, as I looked at the ticket, I became enraged. Why do we have seat belt laws at all? And why are police setting up checkpoints and nabbing people for breaking those laws? It’s a rare night that I don’t hear gunshots in my neighborhood, but unless a warrant is getting served or an old lady collapses in her living room, I never see any cop cars on my block. The resources being used to target people not wearing their seat belts could be used more effectively. The squadron of police manning the checkpoint on Keystone could have been doing any number of other things than writing tickets. I did some research on the origins of the seat belt laws, only to find out that they weren’t necessarily passed because of safety concerns as much as it was the automobile industry’s reluctance to provide airbags in their vehicles. The government isn’t concerned about your safety; the state Legislature just wanted to make things comfy for the automakers. So I have to pay a $25 ticket because General Motors thought airbags were too expensive in the ’70s. Something isn’t right here. When you see laws being passed to restrict behavior or mandate behavior, be sure that big business and the Republicans are behind them. When you get punished for breaking them, thank the Republican Party for always looking out for you. Look at just about every bill designed to strip you of some kind of freedom and you’ll see a Republican snout that was more able to feed at the trough because of it. Unless it’s protecting your right to buy guns, of course. Why do we need seat belt laws at all? If I decide I’d rather be thrown through the windshield and die in an accident than be crippled by a malfunctioning seat belt, whose decision is that, exactly? At what point did we vote to allow the Republicans to become everyone’s mom and dad? Why do we need all these restrictive laws to mandate behavior? Big business will tell you that we all pay for the care of people not wearing seat belts. Insurance rates are higher because people like me choose not to wear seat belts, they say. That argument doesn’t mean much to me. First of all, the insurance industry has screwed me so badly in my lifetime that I could stage a hundred phoney claims and still not be even. Why should I care that an insurance company saved a few hundred bucks on someone else’s wreck? It’s not like they’d pass the savings on to me. They’ll pocket the cash. I’m always concerned when Republicans say they’re concerned about me. I know that there’s always an ulterior motive for it, because true conservatives don’t care what they have to do to make a buck or gain added power. So I discount any statement that the government is interested in preserving my safety. I know that’s a lie. I’m not rich and I’m not a big contributor to the Republicans. I’m ineligible for meaningful care by the government based on those facts alone. The first seat belt law was passed in 1984 and in the 22 years since, 49 states have adopted them. The usage of safety belts has increased from 14 percent to 84 percent as a result, according to the Automobile Coalition for Traffic Safety, a trade group. Indiana now has what’s known as a primary enforcement law, meaning that police can pull you over solely because you’re not wearing a seat belt. Most other states don’t allow that, because it’s a green light for police officers who want to bust somebody for another reason but don’t have the legal grounds to do so. Seat belts have saved lives, there’s no doubt about that. But is it because of the laws forcing their use, or is it people exercising plain common sense? I don’t usually wear my seat belt because I don’t like them. It should be my choice. Personal choice is something almost dead in the country right now, unless it’s the personal choice to support the president. Reagan set us on the path of destroying individual freedoms and Bush is accelerating the pace. He is the Decider and can judge what is best for the country. Our government hates and distrusts us so much that it thinks we can’t make any decisions for ourselves. Hence the spate of anti-freedom laws over the past few decades. So I’ll send off my $25 check and pay my debt to society. I love Big Brother.

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