It sets off a nerve every time I hear someone rant about the loss of personal liberties when it comes to something like a law requiring drivers to wear safety belts. There is a long running debate in this country as to whether driving is a right or a privilege. Arguments for either side are both passionate and compelling.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, to say that the government has no right to tell you to wear a seat belt is short sighted and naive as is the belief that not wearing your seat belt harms no one but the person who chooses not to buckle up.
From the Arizona DPS:
The cost of unbuckled drivers and passengers goes beyond those killed and the loss to their families. We all pay for those who don’t buckle up ““ in higher taxes, higher health care and higher insurance costs.
On average, inpatient hospital care costs for an unbelted crash victim are 50 percent higher than those for a belted crash victim. Society bears 85 percent of those costs, not the individuals involved. Every American pays about $580 a year toward the cost of crashes. If everyone buckled up, this figure would drop significantly.
By reaching the goal of 90 percent seat belt use, and 25 percent reduction in child fatalities could save $8.8 billion annually.
Those are some pretty amazing numbers.
While it may be a valid concern that government is whittling away at our personal liberties, I think that fighting over whether or not you should wear seat belts is a wasted effort. There are certainly bigger fish to fry and since seat belts save lives and have the potential to save us some money I feel the law is justified.
Besides, I know from personal experience that you simply cannot count on your fellow driver to “do the right thing”, not when death is on the line.
Case in point:
It’s circa 1987 and a younger, more naive Jay Lee is driving his brand new Honda CRX to Temple, TX to visit family for the holidays.
At this stage of my life I’m young, I’m stupid (more so than now, I believe) and rather cocky in that young, invincible, live forever woo-hoo kinda way. Still, I don’t like getting hassled by the man and I know full well that the Texas Highway Patrol is out in force on the holiday weekend looking for speeders, drunk drivers and GASP!, those who may be driving sans seat belt so I buckle up. Not because I believe in the safety it provides, not because I give a tinkers damn about health costs or insurance rates. I buckle up because I don’t want to get a ticket.
The Honda CRX is sporty two-seater and I am enjoying the drive as I wind my way north and west away from Houston. I’m not speeding or, if I am, it’s a few miles over the limit but nothing extreme. I have a healthy fear/respect of law enforcement and don’t really want to be pulled over in a small Texas town.
At that time I was dating a woman named Shari and she was riding in the passenger seat with me for holiday family visit. I recall at some point she didn’t have her seat belt on. Maybe we had pulled out of a gas station and she forgot or she had to get something from the behind the seat I don’t remember exactly. I do remember reminding her to buckle up, which she did.
Shortly afterward, I drove into a curve and there was some road work. I noticed the loose gravel sign and thought to decelerate when it became very obvious that we had already driven into the loose gravel. I could feel the rear end fish-tailing and I struggled to control the car, but to no avail. The car went into a spin and proceeded to go backward across the highway and off the road and flipped onto it’s roof.
I remember us both hanging there, upside down, firmly strapped in place and looking at each other as we marvelled at our predicament and realized we were both unhurt. Something I am sure would not be true had we not been wearing seat belts.
So I owe my current well being not to my ability to make a choice to protect myself from physical harm, but rather to my desire to obey the law and not pay a fine. And am I ever grateful for that law? You bet your sweet bippy I am!
On top of that we had no health insurance. Had we been injured the tax payers of this great nation would have footed the bill for our medical treatment.
So yea, it’s personal for me. Buckle up!