Back-seat riders will need to buckle

Cross-posted from the Brock Log.

We already know where the Jacksonville Daily News stands on this…

Regardless of their editorial, the NC General Assembly has approved the bill requiring back-seat passengers to be strapped. This is a good thing, even if the penalties aren’t quite painful.

People continue to fail to understand why this is an important safety requirement. People such as State Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden). In the article Mr. Berger says "We continue to see an erosion of our personal freedoms,". Wow. All that just from having to buckle a seat-belt.

I invite you, Mr. Berger, and anyone else, to go to your preferred hardware store, purchase a 200 pound back of sand and put it in the rear seat (behind the driver’s seat, please). Get in the car and drive. Accelerate to about 55 miles per hour, then slam on the brakes.

Then, tell me how you feel about having an adult belted in the rear of a vehicle.

It’s not about your personal rights. It’s not about the State trying to squeeze more money out of drivers for traffic violations. It’s about safety, stupid.

Adult passengers will face a $10 fine -- in July 2007 -- for not belting up. The bill is weaker than some hoped.


Phil Berger...

has been drinking the Kool-Aid.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Hi Thomas.

Your coding broke the front page, so I did a little minor surgery. Hope I didn't screw anything up.

No worries.

Glad to see you posting!


PS I still like my solution to the highway safety problem: eliminate cars!

Seat Belts

I believe in seat belts. I found myself hanging upside down from one once long ago (the statute of limitations has long since passed).

On the other hand, my step-daughter had a wreck some years ago wherein if she HAD been wearing a seat belt she would have been killed, and we wouldn't have our delightful grandchildren now. The car hit a tree directly in the driver's door. If she hadn't been thrown free, she would have been crushed to death.

So I'm not wildly enthusiastic about mandatory seat belt laws. I do believe in public education, though.

Slippery Slope

Helmet and seat belt laws are a reflection of paternalistic politics. The purported public "benefits" never seem to trickle down to the consumer (how much has it reduced your insurance bill?) while promoting a "nanny state" view of governance. It's a terrible tyranny to expect government to manage all of humanity's ill-behaviors. These "best intentions" lead to inevitably to more control, less liberty.

Another example? The keg registration law kicking about the NC House. In the misbegotten (and ill-conceived, provably false) hope of reducing teen drinking, the public is being asked to cede its already grossly eroded 4th Amendment protections.

At some point personal responsibility will have to kick in.

Apples & Oranges Will?

Seat belts seem to make sense to me, the keg registration doesn't. Wearing a seat belt saves lives, whereas the keg registration has no data behind it that it will help anyone.

Whether we see a benefit from insurance companies or not, seat belts do save lives.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Darwin principle?

Seatbelts do make sense. Protected sex makes sense. Not sticking sharp objects up ones nose makes sense.

How far do we go in "protecting" folks by legislating common sense?

Hey, I'm inconsistent. I wouldn't ride a motorcycle without a helmet but I ride my bike around town without one. Does that mean the government needs to step in and protect me from my own stupidity?

As we become a more and more legalistic country, with floundering morals and ethics, it seems the more laws we have legislating personal behaviors, the worse off we are...

Take the "Drug War". Before 9/11, that "war" was responsible for the greatest erosion (at least in my lifetime) of our personal Constitutional protections. Somewhere we went from a country where "random" stops were unthinkable to one where we can break down someones front door without prior warning. All in the name of protecting folks from themselves.

In many ways, that war's legal excesses set the stage for the gross complacency of the American public vis-a-vis the Bush administrations growing fascism - the new "sneak-n-peek" regime - the complete dissolution of an expectation of privacy.

Each "nanny state" law conditions the public to relinquish their responsibility to manage their own affairs. That conditioning has already yielded terrible results.

As always

it is a matter of degrees. Where to draw the line.

I couldn't believe it when I saw kids wearing bike helmets, we never had no stinking bike helmets. But, now as a parent I couldn't imagine my youngins without 'em.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Insurance Points

should be added if you are caught not wearing a seat belt. Not wearing one is stupid. The chance of suffering serious injuries in a crash is much greater without a seatbelt. Who pays for those injuries? Your insurance company, if you have one, or your local hospital, if you don't.

General stupidity by a few makes auto and health insurance more expensive for everyone else. If you choose to make a dumb move and not wear a seatbelt, you should have to pay your fair share for insurance.

Cost of stupidity

Todd, why are you so confident that seatbelts usage will reduce insurance costs? It certainly seems a sensible conclusion yet most of the research I read resorts to "hail mary" approximations and extrapolations to support cost reductions. It's kind of hard to prove a negative, so you can kind of understand the problem.

A bit of a "back of envelope" calculation makes me suspicious of these claims (# of NC car crashes where seatbelt usage would reduce or eliminate costs beyond the "background noise" of other monetary claims).

That aside, what about all the other proximate causes of accidents?

Why not reduce the speed limit to 20MPH? Speeding is a greater contributor to damage and injury, it appears, than not wearing seatbelts. And, at least, speeding accounts for externally inflicted injuries while not wearing a seatbelt can only contribute to injuries within the affected vehicle (I couldn't find a reference to where an ejected passnger caused substantive damage to another person).

Of course, as Robert points out, there's a balancing act. We're willing to pay a steep price, in injuries and death, to maintain our speedy lifestyle.

Part of the balance, at least for me, is whether the cure - legislating "smart" behavior - is worth the cost - another excuse to inject law enforcement into our daily lives for some vaguely specified societal (not personal) benefit.

Stupidity of costs

NHTSA Occupant Protection

The 2003 traffic fatality rate was 1.48 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, a dramatic reduction from 1975 when the rate was 3.35 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Safety belts are approximately 50 percent effective in preventing fatalities in crashes in which motorists would otherwise die, so raising safety belt use saves lives. NHTSA estimates that safety belt use prevented about 15,200 deaths in 2004. Safety belt use prevents untold tragedy to American families and saves billions of dollars in medical expenses and lost productivity costs annually. If all passenger vehicle occupants over age four had used safety belts in 2004, NHTSA estimates that nearly 21,000 lives (that is, an additional 5,800 lives) could have been saved.

Safety belt usage saves society an estimated $50 billion annually in medical care, lost productivity, and other injury-related costs.15
Conversely, safety belt nonuse results in significant economic costs to society. The needless deaths and injuries from safety belt nonuse account for an estimated $26 billion in economic costs to society annually.16 The cost goes beyond the lost lives of unbuckled drivers and passengers: We all pay - in higher taxes and higher health care and insurance costs.

The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2000. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 446, p. 55.

When lap/shoulder safety belts are used properly, they reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat occupants riding in passenger vehicles by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. For light-truck front-seat occupants, safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 65 percent.

Ejection from the vehicle is one of the most harmful events that can happen to a person in a crash. In passenger vehicle crashes in which someone died in 2002, 73 percent of occupants who were completely ejected were killed. Safety belts are effective in preventing total ejections. In 2002, in crashes in which someone was killed, only 1 percent of the occupants reported to have been using restraints were totally ejected, compared with 30 percent of unrestrained occupants (in passenger vehicles).

Occupant Protection Facts

$50 Billion?

Thanks Greg, I've read those reports and they demonstrate my point. $50 billion in annual savings? Come on! How are those savings expressed?

I'm not arguing against seat belt usage, just a law enforcing it. These studies are used to buttress the argument for such laws - it doesn't help to use hypocritical puffery.

Let's assume the numbers are accurate. Does the savings ("the ends") justify the law ("the means")? Have you ever noticed that reported violations reported from seat belt check roadblocks cover a panopoly of offenses - with seatbelt violations usually mentioned as a sidelight? The seatbelt law has become an excuse for law enforcement dragnets. Is that a problem? Well, you could drag out the old trope about "if you have nuttin' to hide...blah, blah, blah" and probably convince a few folk but in the end, using the seatbelt law in this manner, is wrong. An unintended consequence of enforcement? Doubt it (just read the boosters PR).

I didn't mean to go on about this but, with all the continuing revelations of federal un-Constitutional mischief, it struck me that sometimes, even in the least of "feel good" laws, lies the road to ruin.

The Dems would do well to make clear they don't stand for a "papers, please" type world and evaluate the consequences of even a modest seatbelt law.

I agree

I agree, but I don't think this law is much different from any other traffic law as far as enforcement is concerned, though it is one more log on the fire.

There are too many laws tripping over each other, many in existence simply to remedy some deficiency, real or perceived, in a previous questionable law. I don't think anyone can make it through the week without breaking some law somewhere. There is a paradox in the US where a plethora of laws depend on the honor system for general compliance. This leaves people with the perception of liberty and the exercise of free will but also leaves the door wide open to miscreants and to selective enforcement or an avalanche of charges triggered by one tangentially related event.

We love to see these "tools" in use to put away Al Capone or Martha Stewart or to have Patrick Fitzgerald chase after Karl Rove and Scooter Libby but cringe when these "tools" turn on us, especially as the number and scope of these "tools" have increased exponentially in the past 5 years.

I've stayed out of this discussion

hoping to have my ideas shaped and informed by seeing others debate. I lean instinctively toward the libertarian view, and bristle at the steady drumbeat of laws designed to protect me from my own stupidity. Robert mentions the bicycle helmet law for kids in Chapel Hill. I don't like that law, though I do insist that my 15 year old daughter wear a helmet when we go on long rides. But I don't make her do so when where goofing around in the neighborhood or in our driveway. I know it doesn't make coherent sense, but I really resist the sense of paranoia and danger we impose on children.

I got a ticket for $100 for not wearing a seatbelt two weeks ago. I had just taken off my belt so I could get my wallet out of my back pocket to make sure I had cash (that should be illegal too, I suppose) and I heard a siren behind me. A Chapel Hill cop spent 15 minutes writing me up. It's hard to imagine that was the highest and best use of his time.

In the final analysis, I tend to side with WillR, who has done a nice job articulating the trade-offs. And as Greg said, many of us break laws every day. Go 1 mph over the speed limit? You've broken a law.

But then we have this rationalization thing wherein we say that THAT particular law doesn't deserve compliance. Take AWOL George (please) for example. He's a law-breaking crook who would have long-since been in jail if his daddy hadn't covered for him. What a fine example he is for all to see.

Well said guys....

To finish on a complementary (and "tinfoil hat" sounding) note; the Dems had (and have) an opportunity to stake out reasonable positions against the potential for an "avalanche of charges". Recent revelations of the Republican's 5 year push, with the shameful complicity and tacit approval of the Dems, for a complete Surveillance Society should spur action, even if symbolic, by Dems at local, State and national levels to introduce/reaffirm basic Constitutional protections.

Imagine the society we're headed for - a society where you're lifetime's "electronic dossier" of phone calls, Internet browsing, financial transactions, etc. will serve as a modern sword of Damocles poised over you, your family, your friends. It's not that millions of "blue" folks will be hauled off to modern day (FEMA ;-)?) gulags for their "wrong thinking" but the threat of economic "death" (credit score of 450 vs. 700) or years of bureaucratic paper cuts (ala Gilliam's "Brazil") or the promise of a lifetime of airport gropes that'll keep folks inline.

As you guys noted, everyday, in the most trivial of ways, we trespass against "the State" (like jaywalking across Franklin St. ;-) ). Folks are used to getting away with it and are oblivious to the new world the current administration is building (a world, as Anglico notes, where the ruling elites most heinous crimes - torture, treason, etc. - go unpunished).

Yep, a bit dystopic but that's where we're headed. Again, the Dems have an opportunity to seize the high ground, to apologize for their tepid defense of liberty and to recast their party as one built on the bedrock principle of the people's power to rule.

Of course, that means they need to get some backbone and resist crud like the recent "Pledge of Alleigance" law on principle or to fight their corporate task masters on issues like drilling for oil off the NC coast.