It’s that time of year again, you can’t go anywhere or tune in to any media outlet without seeing or hearing some kind of commercial touting the Department of Transportation’s ‘click it or ticket’ campaign.
‘Click it or Ticket’ marks a high point in a push for greater seat belt compliance. Patrols are asked to vigorously enforce the seat belt laws. Additionally, unmarked and low profile vehicles are utilized. This is not a petty issue.
Seat belt laws are unique in that individuals are told to use a certain device in their vehicle, even if it is uncomfortable or greatly inconvenient. Traditionally, in America, free, autonomous adults have been left unencumbered to do as they please in the privacy of their own vehicle, so long as they don’t put other motorists at risk. Beltlessness does not cause accidents. Besides, shouldn't we all be free to decide for ourselves what risks we’re willing to take in balancing our own well-being with life’s satisfaction which routinely fall in competition? Think of the choice between a burger and fries or a petite organic salad. The principle at stake is precisely the same. And which do you suppose would be the state-sanctioned choice?
Ignoring the profound ethical implications, the theory of risk compensation would suggest that as conditions are made to seem safer, people tend to increase the risks they take. A Time magazine article entitled, “The Hidden Dangers of seat belts,” indicated that, “contrary to conventional wisdom, mandating the use of seat belts in 18 countries resulted in either no change or actually a net increase in road accident deaths.”
Most ridiculous, though, is the $100 million doled out to states that have primary seat belt laws. Why is it always about somebody else’s money?
I’m from the school of thought where everyone should have the right to do as they please, as long as they are not infringing on the rights of other people. This comes from the political philosophy that inspired our founders.
With all of this in mind, I would hope those without special circumstances will choose to buckle up and drive safely. We all have people who care about us. Best not disappoint them.
Tony Jones, a lifelong Rhode Islander, is a local musician, radio host and blogger. He was a 2014 candidate for Lieutenant Governor, running on a platform that advocated for the elimination of the office.