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Overt threats (for your own good)
Posted by: Bryan Pick on Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Seatbelt laws are as much a timeless libertarian bugaboo cliché as anything, joining bike helmet laws, trans fat bans and a thousand other instances of well-intentioned meddling. So why tread old water?

Well, for one, I was slightly disturbed to hear recently, "I'm New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, and I should be dead." For another, it's a bit ridiculous to see Bush chided for not buckling up to drive on his own property. Observe:
So why didn’t a brave cop give Dubya a ticket for driving around his “ranch” without wearing the seatbelt? It’s simple! If you are super rich, you just buy up all the land and then it’s “private property” and you can do whatever you want!
Oh, Wonkette! How your satire delights me. (It was satire... right?)

And though it was topical, even then I wasn't worked up over it. Then I saw the electronic billboards. You've seen them: the ones that say "Click It or Ticket." I noticed several of them as I took a trip through Maryland and Delaware. I saw them when United Airlines stranded me for a day in Chicago. I saw a few on the way home from the airport. Then they were all over the freeways around LA; I counted half a dozen in one day on a 20-mile stretch. And I can't help but wonder how many of my fellow drivers resent the rankly overt threats as much as I do.

Maybe you've heard the arguments for seatbelt laws, each a longer stretch than the last. If you don't accept the argument that it's good for you to be punished for not looking out for your own health, there's always the argument that people who don't wear seatbelts end up splattered on the asphalt and the state has to spend everyone else's money scraping them up—the costs of one state job justifying the costs of another. That line of reasoning, while we're at it, can be extended to every action that even occasionally carries a health risk, as long as the state cleans up any kind of mess. Digest the implications of that for a minute; does it sound appealing yet?

And keep in mind that this vigilant enforcement comes with a cost. The attention of police officers can only be divided so many ways, and time spent searching for and punishing violation of seatbelt laws is time not spent protecting roads from people who are actually endangering other drivers. Taxpayers are spending money on enforcement against voluntary activity that is very rarely dangerous to third parties. (I admit that I see a better argument for more heavily punishing reckless drivers who don't buckle up their children.) And as long as we're on questions of total cost, lend your ear to arguments that mandated safety device usage encourages risk-taking behavior that offsets savings and may actually increase casualties for back-seat passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.

If you're still not enamored of the idea that you'll be fined for failing to take that extra precaution while driving in the middle of nowhere at an ungodly hour, there's always the contention that driving without a seatbelt poses a risk to others: if you're thrown from a car in a collision, your flying body might hurt somebody. Seriously. That justifies a $200 fine, see.

Take a look at those official campaign posters. What could be more comforting than, "Buckle up day & night or the cops will find you"? That's exactly the kind of protection from myself I need: the kind that hunts me everywhere and at all hours. The kind that's applied with stern-faced, condescending disregard. The kind that announces its eagerness to lower my quality of life for my own good. (While we're at it, may I suggest a variation on that theme? How about baby formula? Or a little orange bottle of prescription medicine?)

The Click It or Ticket campaign—and as you can see, it is a campaign—doesn't waste much time justifying itself. They tried informing us, they say, and though virtually all are now aware of the benefit of wearing a seatbelt and 82 percent regularly decide to "click it," that's not enough. So we get this fully appropriate response: We're finished with warnings. People still aren't using their safety belts. So we're stepping up law enforcement and writing tickets. No excuses, no exceptions."

This is apparently a problem requiring the police to "crack down" on violators with "zero tolerance." After all, this is for your own good:
We would much rather write a thousand tickets than have to knock on one family’s door with the news that their loved one didn’t survive a crash because they weren’t wearing their safety belt.
I, too, would much rather receive hundreds of thousands of dollars than inform someone of a significant other's death, but I'd be less easy about the collection method.

I'm curious: is the irony of this lost on anyone? "[The seatbelt] not only protects you. It protects your wallet." That is, the government is taxing you to purchase ad space for the consoling message that wearing the seatbelt that the government requires your car manufacturer to equip protects you from the government taking away your money. Who but the government could get away with that?
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I heard one of those commercials last week and right then unbuckled. The government has gone over the top on this.
Written By: Scott Erb
Corzine....Corzine...wasn’t he the one whose motorcade regularly drove at reckless speeds, and whose vehicle was in fact doing something like 95MPH in a 65MPH zone (my occasional philosophical issues with speed limits be damned: go too much faster than the flow of traffic and you’ve gone from being part of the flow to running a moving obstacle course)?

Of course, pointing out that the Governor was (or hired and encouraged) a reckless idiot behind the wheel wouldn’t sell nearly as well.
Written By: Lysenko
URL: http://
The Click It or Ticket campaign
We have that here. What I really object is the Gestapo presentation ‘click it or ticket" It sounds like something produced in Germany during the 1930’a "Your papers please?" Governments are turning to scare tactics in desperation
Written By: James E. Fish
And it’s really going overboard here in Washington State.
The changes also require children to use booster seats until they are 16 years old if a vehicle’s seat belt does not properly fit the child.
Another change requires children younger than 13 to ride in the back seat whenever possible. They’re allowed to ride in the front only if the vehicle has no lap-and-shoulder belts in the back seat.
I’ve only lived here for 2 1/2 years and I’m convinced it’s the ultimate nanny state. In a state that just passed record gas taxes one of the Senators (Sen Cantwell) pushes the gas gouging bill. Gas companies make about $.13 a gallon and state and federal governments take about $.40 a gallon.
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
I heard one of those commercials last week and right then unbuckled. The government has gone over the top on this.

Written By: Scott Erb

Dang! Where’s a head-on when you need one!

Sorry, I just HAD to say it!
Written By: Random Numbers
Normally I’d agree.

Except in an accident, there’s a chance you can exert some control or regain control if you aren’t knocked out of position or have a 200lbs sack of meat thrown on top of you. This could affect you, your passengers and other pedestrians or vehicles. The difference in outcome on a statistical basis probably isn’t huge but I don’t see it as zero either.

That’s how not wearing your seatbelt can affect others. I’d like to see opinions on that.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
A couple years ago, in my town, the "Click it or ticket" campaign was heralded in with much fanfare about "safety" and "for your own good" and "the police don’t want to ticket you - but they will."

Seat belt use went up, and tickets were down 75% from the year before. The result?

Politicians whining and moaning about the "budget shortfall" from the loss in revenue from tickets.

So, now you know what it is really about.
Written By: The Gonzman
URL: http://
We have it here in the Commonfilth of Massachusetts, too.

Apparently the whine of "my body, my choice" applies only to the holy sacrament of abortion. For anything else, you’re a fully-owned subsidiary of the Imperial Federal Government.
Written By: Christopher
URL: http://
When the state makes seat belt usage a "primary offense", that is something you can be stopped for, not something you can be ticketed for when otherwise stopped, then police have carte blanche to stop any vehicle. The probable cause is ’Judge, I did not see that the shoulder belt was in use, so I pulled them over.’ Once they have probable cause to make the stop, then they have a lot more latitude for other actions that they would not normally be entitled too.
Written By: Loren
URL: http://
Excellent point, Loren. Here in Idaho the law says
(5) Enforcement of this section by law enforcement officers may be accomplished only as a secondary action when the operator of the motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of another law.
Idaho Code 49-673.

So, I guess that’s something. The fine used to be just $10, but the legislature just amended it up to $25. The child seatbelt laws used to have a provision that read:
When the child is removed from the car safety restraint and held by the attendant for the purpose of nursing the child or attending the child’s other immediate physiological needs
then the child seatbelt laws didn’t apply. But that got amended out this year as well, ostensibly "to delete reference to an exception in law that is not [sic] longer applicable." Children don’t nurse anymore? That’s news to me.
Written By: Jinnmabe
URL: http://
I HATE this campaign. How much are they spending on promoting it? How many MILLIONS of dollars are being take from us? UGH!!!! Makes me want to pull my hair out.

I also want to know if not wearing a seatbelt and getting a ticket for it will raise my insurance rates. I’m sure the insurance companies would be all for the campaign at that point, you know, for our own good that is...
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
I don’t agree with the laws, except as they pertain to those under age.

Don’t agree with helmet laws either, except for those under a certain age, or on a learners permit.

Personally I think it’s dumb not to wear a seatbelt or helmet (on a m/c) but hey, it’s supposed to be a free country...
Written By: Keith_Indy
then police have carte blanche to stop any vehicle.

Good point; I’ve also wondered if this is part of the reason for the absurdly low speed limits in most places. (Of course the speeding ticket revenue probably helps too.)

Personally I think it’s dumb not to wear a seatbelt

Me too, but if we ticketed everyone who did something dumb, for one thing we’d need a whole lot more police...
Written By: Kevin R
URL: http://
"I’m New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, and I should be dead."

I wouldn’t go quite that far, but he certainly should be appearing before a judge to explain why he shouldn’t be charged with reckless driving or endangerment, and why he should not be liable for all the medical and other costs involved in this incident. The driver of the other vehicle involved should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t charged with something. Too many witnesses, I suppose.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I just love it when the government finds ways to take freedoms and our money under the guise of protecting ourselves from ourselves. If government really wanted to change our behavior they would make laws holding people responsible for their own actions.

How about-

1)No state health coverage of behavior related illnesses. For example, smoking or other forms of drug abuse.
2)Allow insurance companies to refuse payment for accidents caused by distracted driving. I.e. Cell phones or juggling a Big Mac and super size fries durring rush hour traffic.
3)Same for drunk driving.
4)How about refusing to pay to rebuild cities below sea level?

Start holding people accountable for their own actions and we just might begin to return this country to adulthood rather than having it descending into spoiled adolescence.
Written By: sbkilb
URL: http://
I wouldn’t go quite that far, but he certainly should be appearing before a judge to explain why he shouldn’t be charged with reckless driving or endangerment, and why he should not be liable for all the medical and other costs involved in this incident.
How about, because he wasn’t driving. He was a passenger.
Start holding people accountable for their own actions and we just might begin to return this country to adulthood rather than having it descending into spoiled adolescence.
That will never happen. The nanny-staters (on both sides) make to much money from it.
Written By: Keith_Indy
Insurance pays the bills but the driver gets sued by his own insurance co.

We had something similar on all military posts. If you were on post and had an accident with no seatbelts or helmet the Army doesn’t pay. Needless to say we buckled up and wore helmets.
Written By: sbkilb
URL: http://
"How about, because he wasn’t driving. He was a passenger."

He was the Governor. He was in charge. He took an oath of office that probably said something about enforcing the law. I don’t think he was an unwilling captive of a low-ranking state trooper who forced him to unbuckle his seatbelt at gunpoint. There is a reason the driver wasn’t charged with anything.

"Insurance pays the bills but the driver gets sued by his own insurance co."

I won’t hold my breath until I see the Governor get sued by an insurance company regulated by the state.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I can’t be bothered with anything these days, but shrug. I just don’t have anything to say recently. I haven’t gotten much done recently. Nothing seems worth thinking about.
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