November 23, 2004
Seatbelts Are Not For Sissies
Today carried to my ears the umpteenth complaint against Mandatory Seat Belt Laws:
So I don't need anyone to tell me to wear a seatbelt...it's none of the government's business whether or not I get hurt, and who can prove that the seatbelt would protect me from a fatal injury? Besides, I have health insurance...isn't that what it's for?
One maxim of reality is that when a person flies out the front windshield of their vehicle, they were not wearing a seatbelt. If they were knocked about the interior of the vehicle or sustained a broken collarbone from the steering wheel, again, they were not wearing a seatbelt. Of course, with a manufacturing defect, a slight exception to this maxim is permitted, but standard industry practice ensures that seatbelts are repeatedly tested before vehicles leave the factory.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ncreasing the national seat belt use rate to 90 percent from the current 68 percent would prevent and estimated 5,536 fatalities, 132,670 injuries and save the nation $8.8 billion annually.
As far as health insurance, this is intended to be used for illness or catastrophic injury. Catastrophic includes unforseeable injuries due to freak accidents or "acts of God," but this does not include injuries sustained largely through the stupidity principle.
In addition, to say that a health insurance crisis is occuring in the U.S. is an understatement. Those injured while not wearing seatbelts contribute significantly to this problem. Rising health care and insurance costs that result from injured drivers and passengers not wearing belts are passed along to everybody. On average, hospital care for an unbelted driver is 50 percent higher a driver wearing a seatbelt. Who pays for this increased cost in medical care? Certainly not the injured parties...Society takes on 85 percent of this medical care.
Those who refuse to wear seatbelts often make this choice as a matter of “personal freedom.” Yet, like any constitutional right, the freedoms end where others are injured or killed. This is especially bothersome in regards to children passengers in a vehicle. All the pertinent studies compare an unrestrained child in a 30-mile-per-hour crash as akin to dropping a child from a third story window.
Most rational citizens would agree that protecting lives with seat belts is equal or greater in importance than broken tail lights or littering. So why does almost every state have standard laws that allow police officers to issue citations for driving with a broken tail light or tossing litter out their vehicle's window....but only a minority of state legislatures have passed statutes making seat belt use mandatory in all moving vehicles?
Politically Incorrect Modest Proposal: Congress should carve out create an exception to the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act of 1986, where hospitals have the legal right to refuse medical treatment to unbelted drivers or passengers injured in an automobile accident. Of course, this wouldn't apply to children...who generally don't know better if their parents permit them to go unbelted. This may seem Draconian, but in my not-so-humble opinion, some tough lovin' would settle this issue very quickly.
Posted by at November 23, 2004 02:26 AM
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Tracked on November 23, 2004 02:34 AM
Tracked on November 23, 2004 08:17 AM
I would agree with you, except for the fact that to me it is considered a infringement on my personal freedom.
I base this on the fact that in Arkansas, the state which i reside, it is perfectly legal for a motorcyclist to ride without a helmet, whereas I, in a 1 ton vehicle surrounded by steel and metal with 4 wheels am required to wear a seat belt.
Its out right hypocrisy.
But thats just my opinion, respectfully given :-)
Posted by: BloodSpite at November 23, 2004 07:20 AM
BloodSpite, the obvious solution is to require motorcyclists to wear helmets!
Okay, I'm better now.
Laws are the wrong approach. Sadie's on the right track, but I don't think her suggestion will work. You can see my counterproposal in my trackback.
Posted by: Boyd at November 23, 2004 08:21 AM
Godamn, once again I'm basically agreeing with you. On the personal liberty front, people should be able to take the risk of not wearing a seatbelt, but doing so negates obligations others have to you (to the extent that such obligations hinge on your health and safety).
One's wife, dependants, employer, and insurer (including the state) should all have the right to obligate you to wear a seatbelt. Such obligation does not constitute an infringement on personal liberty inasmuch as you choose voluntarily to enter into relations with all of those people/groups/institutions. If you don't want to wear a seatbelt, don't enter into obligations with counterparties depending on your continued life.
Posted by: Beck at November 23, 2004 10:47 AM
Great logic, Sadie and Beck. There's no reason to respect personal liberties where safety is concerned. It's a shame we don't have electronic, radio controlled speed regulators, where the car will not go above the posted speed limit on any given road. Speed kills, right?
Not to mention red lights and stop signs. Something should be installed on new cars that will make them stop when they're supposed to--a lot of wrecks happen when people run through intersections, ya know.
Ok, I'll get serious now. I'm not endangering anyone but myself if I don't wear a seatbelt (or a helmet when I ride, for that matter). I, like anyone else, do "dangerous" things all the time. The logic you use--it's in the public interest for me to take personal safety measures--gives absolute power to the government to legislate against anything from fatty food to unprotected sex to showering without a soft tub. If you guys want to live in a totalitarian regime, that's ok, but move--don't try to turn America into one!
There are cases where laws are necessary to ensure public safety. Don't confuse a "good idea" with something that should be law, though.
And before the first stone is thrown, let me say that I consider safety belts the single best safety measure one can take in an automobile. I wear mine religiously. There is no better place to be in most accidents than sitting upright, firmly in the seat of the vehicle, because the passenger compartment is designed to protect the passengers when they're where they are supposed to be. I know better than most folks the forces at work in an accident and their real-world consequences, from years of working as an EMT-Paramedic, and although I deplore airbags, I am a strong advocate of seat belt use---just not government mandated use. Period.
Posted by: BoDiddly at November 23, 2004 11:17 AM
By the way, nationwide seat belt usage is currently 80%, according to the NHTSA.
Posted by: Boyd at November 23, 2004 12:38 PM
You know, I have a question ... why is seat belts about personal freedom and the government shouldn't interfere (especially when it can cause you and your passengers to die if you were to be in an accident) yet abortion isn't about personal freedom and the government should stop it?
That really doesn't make sense to me.
Posted by: Rogue at November 24, 2004 09:43 AM
Rogue, for the same reason that laws requiring children to be in car seats isn't about personal freedom. There must be in place laws that protect those who are unable to make a rational, conscious decision regarding their own safety. Would anyone go so far as to say that since abortion is ok, car seat laws for children is wrong? "My baby, my choice" taken to the extreme.
That's why the issue of when life begins is so central to the abortion debate. Nobody would be able to rationally argue that it's okay to take a life for personal convenience.
Again, personal freedom stops where the safety of others is in question--hence the need for traffic laws of various types from the busted brake light that Sadie mentions to requirements that your windshield be reasonably transparent. A more accurate parallel between seat belt laws and women's rights issues would be a law that required sterilization for a woman convicted of child abuse or neglect. It may be a fairly good idea in some cases, but it's a far stretch to say that the government should take that step.
Posted by: BoDiddly at November 24, 2004 12:27 PM