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Belt This

I had no idea until I saw this USAT story that the debate over mandatory seat belt laws was still bubbling. Having long lived in states with primary seat belt laws (meaning police can stop and ticket motorists solely for not wearing their seat belts), I assumed the question had long since been settled.

But it turns out many states merely have secondary laws (allowing police to ticket you for seat belt violations only if they stop you for some other misdeed), and New Hampshire doesn't have a law for adults at all--despite the wad of federal cash that states with mandatory laws have been receiving in recent years. Now refocusing attention on the issue, many states are facing serious budget squeezes and would love a fresh influx of federal money, but the available grants are set to expire at the end of June.

I say--with apologies to all who've suffered through this rant before--New Hampshire should stick by its guns, the grants should be allowed to die, and existing laws should be rolled back so that states can stop treating their adults like children.

Yes. I'm well aware of the stats showing that mandatory seat belt laws save lives. I myself feel more secure wearing a seat belt--and did even before I bought a car with one of those migraine-inducing systems that beeps at me every single time I briefly unbuckle my belt at a stoplight to reach back and pick up whatever toy/book/juicebox my child has dropped on the floor. But if I chose not to wear a seat belt, it shouldn't be anyone's business but my own. 

Seat belt laws are a classic example of government overreach. Unlike most other road rules I can think of, failure to buckle up does not impact the safety of anyone other than the adult making the decision. My wearing a seat belt does not make me a better driver, nor does it decrease the odds of injury to others involved in a crash with me.

I guess I should be touched that the government cares so deeply about my well-being that it feels comfortable forcing me to strap myself into my vehicle. While they're at it, maybe some nice police officer would like to come over to my house and see to it that the floor of my shower has non-slip treads and that none of the yogurt in my refrigerator is past its due date. Because god knows they don't have anything better to do with their time, right?

What a pathetic, insulting message to send your citizenry about personal choice and personal reponsibility. The whole thing is enough to make me want to run with scissors. 

--Michelle Cottle