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Seat Belts

T

The Question

There is an ad campaign on TV and radio across the country called “Click It or Ticket“. This is a program where people are told if they do not put on a seat belt in a car while driving they will be ticketed. Also in the new Senate Highway Funding bill there is a section which would allow police to pull over a driver for not wearing a seat belt even if they were not speeding or breaking any other laws. That there is are laws which requires you to wear a seat belt is really not in question. What should be questioned is need for such a law and if wearing seat belts really improves on the safety of our lives.
First some facts, seat belts already are a large part of most drives lives. 90% of front seat drivers and passengers wear their seat belts, while only 63% of back seat passengers put on the strap. Women wear seat belts more than men and the older you are the more of a chance you wear it. (RoSPA web site) Now there are other figures such as death rates in accidents and the percentage of who wore a seat belt and who did not. They are as follows: In 1997 there was 21,989 people killed in an auto accident of a car or light truck. Of these 38.5% wore a restraint of some kind, in real numbers that is 8,457 people killed even while wearing a seat belt of some kind. Now granted there were more people killed who did not wear some kind of restraint. But these numbers prove that wearing a seat belt is not the be all and end all way of saving your life or yourself from injury in an auto accident. In fact 2,378,000 people were hurt in an auto accident and the majority of them wore a restraint, some 77.6% or 1,846,000. All these figures come from The Disaster Center's Motor Vehicle Accident Death and Injury data Index. So this is the Federal government’s figures showing that even while wearing seat belts roughly 1/3 of the time you die in an accident and over 2/3 of the time your are hurt in an accident. So given the data how can anyone say wearing a seat belt really improves your odds all that much.
Now that the facts of how seat belts perform have been given lets look at the ethical side of making people wear them. America has many freedoms, freedom of speech, press, religion and self-incrimination just a few. Also in America there is the acceptance that a person is responsible for their lives. If you walk on the edge of a long drop and fall you can not blame anyone else. You walked on it, you are at fault for falling. This is true for many things in America why not for wearing seat belts as well. If you are in an accident and you get hurt and wearing your seat belt would have helped then you should have to pay more for insurance or not have the accident covered at all. If you are a person who does not wear a seat belt then you should have higher insurance rates because it is going to cost you more to be in an accident. This is one reason given by the government to have the laws to save people from injury and death thus saving money and lives.
So if saving lives and bodily harm is the goal here why is there not laws for having a heart attack because you are over weigh? Or getting a ticket for not only driving drunk but putting your body at harm with excusive amounts of alcohol namely your brain and liver? Why are those people who free climb cliffs and mountains, meaning no safety gear of any kind, not given a ticket by the government? It is a danger, some one could be killed or hurt but nothing is done to them. Why? What puts driving a car into this category of special attention by the government where laws on the driver and passengers are enacted? What could be the reason? Their own facts show that wearing a seat belt only slightly improves your odds of getting out of an accident unhurt or alive. So there must be some reason…could it be money? Would not having a law which gave a policeman the right to pull over a driver and give them a ticket generate money for a given state which had this law.
Then there is the gradual increment of how far the government can intrude in your life. The seat belt law is a first step, then it is how loud you play your music in the car. Here they would be trying to protect your hearing and all the medical bills which go along with it. Then it is if you can eat in your car, talk on the phone which some places have already outlawed. Then they will move from the car to the home. It would never stop and it would all be done for the public good. In America we have rights and driving without your seat belt is one of them. You made the choice of the kind of car, how fast and safe you drive it and if you want to take your chances and get hurt in an accident in that car by not wearing your seat belt. It is not a matter of money or anything else of why the states made these laws it is a matter of control and see how much they can take.
 

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Good points. I've also wondered how they can justify enforcing seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws.

Seat belts have their downsides too. People have burned to death in their cars because rescuers couldn't get the seat belt unlatched. Most accidents are from the side, not head-on, and in those cases seat belts actually increase the risk of injury. Like getting squished between the other car and the seat belt.

If everyone obeyed all traffic laws all the time, there would be hardly any car accidents. But people are stupid.
 

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Binary_Digit said:
Good points. I've also wondered how they can justify enforcing seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws.
Because what you do affects me. If I make a mistake and crash into you and you're not taking basic safety precautions then my punishment will be larger because of your mistake.

If I drive badly and hit you and damager your car then I'm liable for the cost of the car. If I drive badly and hit you and kill you because you're not wearing a seat belt then I can be sentenced for manslaughter.

In a theoretical view we could take this into account and the cost of damages I must pay would be reduced by the dangerousness of your actions. But in the real world it doesn't work that way and in the sense that it does work that way it works better when there's an actual law saying you should have been wearing a seat belt. Now when I hit you I can say you were breaking the law and go from there to reduce my costs.

There's also the cost of ambulance and police services. Increased injury because of lack of seat belts increases the costs society has to pay for your care.
 

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stump said:
Because what you do affects me. If I make a mistake and crash into you and you're not taking basic safety precautions then my punishment will be larger because of your mistake.

If I drive badly and hit you and damager your car then I'm liable for the cost of the car. If I drive badly and hit you and kill you because you're not wearing a seat belt then I can be sentenced for manslaughter.
I have to say that's a really interesting point of view, but I totally disagree. You're essentially blaming ME for an accident YOU caused, and that's ridiculous. You may as well blame me for even being there, instead of running late and consequently not being in your way at the time of your mistake. My not wearing a seat belt only affects you if you're the one who couldn't drive properly. Don't want to pay for my injuries? Don't run red lights and smack into me. It's simple.

stump said:
In a theoretical view we could take this into account and the cost of damages I must pay would be reduced by the dangerousness of your actions. But in the real world it doesn't work that way and in the sense that it does work that way it works better when there's an actual law saying you should have been wearing a seat belt. Now when I hit you I can say you were breaking the law and go from there to reduce my costs.

There's also the cost of ambulance and police services. Increased injury because of lack of seat belts increases the costs society has to pay for your care.
The dangerousness of my actions? Wait a minute, if you have to pay for damages, then the accident would be your fault, not mine, due to the dangerousness of YOUR actions, not mine. And society wouldn't pay for my care, your insurance would. Assuming you have insurance, that is.

I agree that seat belts usually reduce the costs of an accident, but protecting the financial livelihood of people who can't drive properly is not a good reason for the law to require everyone to wear them.
 

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Binary_Digit said:
I have to say that's a really interesting point of view, but I totally disagree. You're essentially blaming ME for an accident YOU caused, and that's ridiculous.
Not blaming you for the accident, just for you not doing your part to keep yourself safe. Accidents happen for many reasons, we are not perfect. This isn't like robbing someone accidents are unintentional results of mistakes. And they're not homicide cases so just because fault is assigned to me doesn't make it my fault (for example, my sister hit someone who ran a red light, there was no way to prove they ran the red light so my sister was assigned the blame because she is the one who hit the other car).

If you were driving around with a nuclear bomb in your car and I rear end you because you stop suddenly and the bomb goes off am I responsible for the death of millions or are you? Technically I am responsible for the accident but the deaths are because of you.

Binary_Digit said:
]And society wouldn't pay for my care, your insurance would. Assuming you have insurance, that is.
But society must now pay the higher cost of insurance because of your recklessness.

Binary_Digit said:
I agree that seat belts usually reduce the costs of an accident, but protecting the financial livelihood of people who can't drive properly is not a good reason for the law to require everyone to wear them.
Damages should be based on the action taken by the person causing the action. Your not wearing a seat belt is not an action I took. Why should I be forced to pay for your action? Why should I pay more for my mistake than someone else who made the exact same mistake but hit someone wearing a seat belt pay?

Frankly, it's people with the attitude that you have that caused the laws to be necessary. Your refusal to take personal responsibility for your mistake in not wearing a seat belt forces the state to take action.
 

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stump said:
Not blaming you for the accident, just for you not doing your part to keep yourself safe.
Since there are seat belt laws, I can see your point that I would be neglecting my lawful responsibility, thereby making your mistake even worse than it would otherwise be. But that's only relavent because there are seat belt laws, it alone doesn't justify having those laws. Otherwise the law should require pedestrians to wear helmets and padded clothing so as to protect drivers from their own mistakes. The line is thick and gray.

stump said:
If you were driving around with a nuclear bomb in your car and I rear end you because you stop suddenly and the bomb goes off am I responsible for the death of millions or are you? Technically I am responsible for the accident but the deaths are because of you.
That's a good question, but again that assumes I'm doing something illegal in the first place. Let's assume it's not a nuclear bomb, let's just say you rear-end me and my gas tank explodes killing four other people. Am I responsible for their deaths, or are you?

Under current laws, I'm required to wear seat belts. It's for that reason alone that I would have any responsibility for excess damage or injury. You could say if my car had an air bag, I would have suffered less injuries. But I would not be responsible for those excess injuries unless the law required all cars to have working air bags.

stump said:
But society must now pay the higher cost of insurance because of your recklessness.
Not my recklessness, if the accident is your fault then it's your recklessness. As a result of an accident that's your fault, your insurance premiums would increase a lot more than everyone else's, but I think you're right that everyone's insurance costs are affected by a only few people's accidents.

stump said:
Damages should be based on the action taken by the person causing the action. Your not wearing a seat belt is not an action I took.
I agree with that.

stump said:
Why should I be forced to pay for your action?
Actually, you'd be paying for your own action, and your cost would be increased by my inaction. So what if you run over a pedestrian and break 3 of his ribs, and those injuries would have been avoided if the person had been wearing a protective suit? It's the same thing - the cost of your action would be increased by the pedestrian's inaction of not wearing any protection. The only difference is, the law requires a certain type of protection while in a car, but not while walking across the street. Once again, the line is thick and gray.

stump said:
Your refusal to take personal responsibility for your mistake in not wearing a seat belt forces the state to take action.
No, I disagree. It's your refusal to pay for your own mistake, trying to place some of the blame on me for not protecting myself against your bad driving. :)
 

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Binary_Digit said:
Since there are seat belt laws, I can see your point that I would be neglecting my lawful responsibility, thereby making your mistake even worse than it would otherwise be. But that's only relavent because there are seat belt laws, it alone doesn't justify having those laws.
Actually, I think it justifies it quite nicely. It defines the line. You obviously need the line because you don't want to take resonsiblity for your own safety. It is your choice to be less safe not mine.

Binary_Digit said:
That's a good question, but again that assumes I'm doing something illegal in the first place. Let's assume it's not a nuclear bomb, let's just say you rear-end me and my gas tank explodes killing four other people. Am I responsible for their deaths, or are you?
The car manufacturer should be responsible (see: Ford Pinto).

But I'm not trying to define where the line is. Just giving an example of why it's not fair to have different punishments for the same crime.

Under current laws, I'm required to wear seat belts. It's for that reason alone that I would have any responsibility for excess damage or injury. You could say if my car had an air bag, I would have suffered less injuries. But I would not be responsible for those excess injuries unless the law required all cars to have working air bags.


Binary_Digit said:
Actually, you'd be paying for your own action, and your cost would be increased by my inaction. So what if you run over a pedestrian and break 3 of his ribs, and those injuries would have been avoided if the person had been wearing a protective suit?
Okay, inaction rather than action. Yes. We're talking about reasonable protection. Wearing a protective suit is not reasonable. And again, this is a good reason to have the law. To define what reasonable is.

Binary_Digit said:
No, I disagree. It's your refusal to pay for your own mistake, trying to place some of the blame on me for not protecting myself against your bad driving. :)
It's not about my bad driving. I'm willing to pay the consequences of that. You have not answered why I should pay more than someone else because I happened to hit a reckless person. There's actions (or I guess inactions) caused the higher penalty not mine.
 

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stump said:
Actually, I think it justifies it quite nicely. It defines the line. You obviously need the line because you don't want to take resonsiblity for your own safety.
No no, I don't have a problem taking responsibility for my own safety. I wear seat belts whether it's the law in my current state or not. I am pointing out the slippery slope of justifying seat belt laws with ONLY the fact that it saves the reckless driver some money.

Look, I could probably show that walking around in a huge plastic bubble could save you money if you were to run me over in your car. So by your own reasoning, we should pass a law requiring all pedestrians to walk around in a huge plastic bubble. If I'm not inside my bubble, then my inaction could cost you, just exactly the same as not wearing a seat belt. That's the exact same line you've drawn.

stump said:
Okay, inaction rather than action. Yes. We're talking about reasonable protection. Wearing a protective suit is not reasonable. And again, this is a good reason to have the law. To define what reasonable is.
Aha! That's where the argument becomes subjective. You're absolutely right, it's a matter of what's reasonable and what's not. And I agree that seat belts are more reasonable than huge plastic bubbles, that was only to illustrate a point using the best (albeit lame) hypothetical situation I could think of to compare x and y. But "reasonable" doesn't stop with just certain types of protection, it also applies to who should be held responsible for who'se (in)actions. To me, it is no more reasonable to blame an accident victim for lack of protection as it is to blame them for having passengers in the car who also got injured. ** except as it applies under technicality of the law ** If the accident were your fault, then all the resulting damages should be your responsibility too.

If I'm golfing, and my drive slices and hits a school bus knocking the driver senseless, and the bus runs off the road into a river killing all the children on board, by law I am responsible for all their deaths. If the bus driver had been wearing a helmet, the whole thing would have been a harmless incident, but I would have no legal (or moral) ground to argue that I'm only half responsible since the bus driver should've been wearing a helmet - unless of course the laws actually required exactly that. So I don't understand how that is any different with respect to the issue.

stump said:
You have not answered why I should pay more than someone else because I happened to hit a reckless person.
Sorry, the answer is because I'm not the one who is a reckless person if you're the one who is at fault for the accident. Why should you pay more than someone else just because you happened to hit a minivan carrying a family of five? That's just tough luck, shoulda been paying attention. Your only recourse on the seat belt thing is because the laws exist, in some states, but I'm arguing from the context that the laws shouldn't be there.
 

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Binary_Digit said:
I am pointing out the slippery slope of justifying seat belt laws with ONLY the fact that it saves the reckless driver some money.
It's hardly the only reason. That it supposedly saves lives is the reason. This is just a reason why your inactions affects others so we should have a say in what you do.

Binary_Digit said:
So by your own reasoning, we should pass a law requiring all pedestrians to walk around in a huge plastic bubble.
No, by my reasoning your doing that or not doing that affects others. In this case it has been deemed by society to be an unreasonable action to take. Seat belts have been deemed reasonable so therefore we have a law.

Binary_Digit said:
Aha! That's where the argument becomes subjective. You're absolutely right, it's a matter of what's reasonable and what's not.
Correct, now you get it! And by creating laws we make it objective. We list what is and is not reasonable precautions to take so that when this goes to court the jury or judge is limited in their subjective decisions. If we had no laws it would be a subjective decision whether seat belts or plastic bubbles were reasonable.

Binary_Digit said:
Sorry, the answer is because I'm not the one who is a reckless person if you're the one who is at fault for the accident. Why should you pay more than someone else just because you happened to hit a minivan carrying a family of five? That's just tough luck, shoulda been paying attention. Your only recourse on the seat belt thing is because the laws exist, in some states, but I'm arguing from the context that the laws shouldn't be there.
True, it can't be totally equal. Hitting a Rolls is going to cost you more than hitting a beat up pick up truck. Unfortunately, life isn't fair. But we can do what we can to make it more fair. And if we save lives at the same time how can it be wrong?

If the "it's your fault you drove badly" thing is your hang up then what about the hapless driver who is hit by someone not wearing a seat belt. The non-seat belt wearing bad driving person then dies because of it. The innocent person now has the guilt that the death happened in an accident he was involved in. Again, your decision not to wear a seat belt affects someone else.

And I notice you've totally ignored the extra cost of ambulance and ER costs because of non seatbelt wearing. Until we're willing to let reckless people pay their own costs society has to pick up the costs. We're minimizing the cost for recklessness. Lower costs higher occurrence of it happening. So we must increase the cost another way, i.e. a law banning it.
 

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stump said:
It's hardly the only reason.
It was the only reason you provided, until this ...

stump said:
That it supposedly saves lives is the reason.
... which is yet another slippery slope. Yes, wearing seat belts saves lives. It's a good reason to use them, but not (necessarily) a good reason to require them by law. Not eating McDonald's for every meal saves lives. It's a good reason not to overindulge, but not (necessarily) a good reason to make Big Macs contraband under the law. In the context of saving lives, they are no different at all.

stump said:
This is just a reason why your inactions affects others so we should have a say in what you do.
That's no different than a thief suing his victim for cutting himself on broken glass inside the victim's house. The victim's inactions (not cleaning up the glass) affects others (the thief), even though the whole thing is the thief's own fault.

stump said:
No, by my reasoning your doing that or not doing that affects others.
Sorry, but I'm still not sold on the whole "my inaction affects others" argument, at least not how it pertains to seat belts, because it's irrelavent if you're the one who brought it upon yourself. Whether it's a mistake or an intentional action doesn't matter; you're the catalyst who started the chain of events, so you should be ultimately responsible for everything that happens as a result. Re: the golfer and the school bus.

stump said:
In this case it has been deemed by society to be an unreasonable action to take. Seat belts have been deemed reasonable so therefore we have a law.
That's true enough, but I'm allowed to disagree with the law. The majority isn't necessarily always right. :)

stump said:
If we had no laws it would be a subjective decision whether seat belts or plastic bubbles were reasonable.
It's still subjective, because some people disagree with that particular law. Entire states disagree with it.

stump said:
Unfortunately, life isn't fair. But we can do what we can to make it more fair.
But we shouldn't do that by holding the wrong people responsible for someone else's mistake.

stump said:
And if we save lives at the same time how can it be wrong?
It's just as wrong to ban McDonald's to "save lives". True it would save lives, but at the expense of personal liberty. I prefer to err on the side of personal liberty and responsibility for one's own actions. Encourage people to wear seat belts, and eat healthy, but the law has no business dictating people's personal lives in order to protect them from their own individual self.

stump said:
If the "it's your fault you drove badly" thing is your hang up then what about the hapless driver who is hit by someone not wearing a seat belt. The non-seat belt wearing bad driving person then dies because of it. The innocent person now has the guilt that the death happened in an accident he was involved in. Again, your decision not to wear a seat belt affects someone else.
Pretend I'm the seat belt wearer. The other person may not have been wearing their seat belt, but I did not make that decision for them. I would feel remourse for them as a humanitarian, but I don't think I would feel guilty. I should not feel morally responsible, because the accident wasn't my fault.

I'll give you this though - if the accident were my fault, and I survived for wearing my belt but they didn't survive due to not wearing it, I would feel more guilty than if they HAD survived by wearing it. But only because the accident was my fault. I still wouldn't support this law, and I still would support their right to have chosen for themselves whether or not to wear it.

stump said:
And I notice you've totally ignored the extra cost of ambulance and ER costs because of non seatbelt wearing. Until we're willing to let reckless people pay their own costs society has to pick up the costs.
I didn't mean to ignore it, rather I didn't think it was relavent. Everyone is required by law to have car insurance (a law I DO support), therefore ambulance and ER costs would be covered by the insurance of the person at fault, not society.
 

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FWIW, I'm actually not a big fan of seat belt laws. Heck, if someone doesn't think their life is worth putting a seat belt on for who am I to say they deserve to live.

My first post was only answering the statement how can they justify these laws which cause the government to intrude on your personal life. And I believe I have answered it.

You may not agree with the laws and that's your perogative but I don't think you can disagree with the justification for it. And if you still don't understand it I don't think there's much more I can say.

Binary_Digit said:
I didn't mean to ignore it, rather I didn't think it was relavent. Everyone is required by law to have car insurance (a law I DO support), therefore ambulance and ER costs would be covered by the insurance of the person at fault, not society.
Costs of an accident are not all covered by insurance. Police time is not covered. The full cost of ER and ambulances are not covered. Firefighter time (using the jaws of life, for example) is not covered. Neither is the cost for the time the road is shut down. If a minor accident becomes a major accident because some fool doesn't wear his seatbelt then I have to bear the cost of sitting in traffic while they go through all the extra paperwork needed for a deadly accident.
 

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stump said:
FWIW, I'm actually not a big fan of seat belt laws. Heck, if someone doesn't think their life is worth putting a seat belt on for who am I to say they deserve to live.

My first post was only answering the statement how can they justify these laws which cause the government to intrude on your personal life. And I believe I have answered it.
And that you did. Like I said, I hadn't considered that point of view before. Thanks for a good debate.

stump said:
Costs of an accident are not all covered by insurance. Police time is not covered. The full cost of ER and ambulances are not covered. Firefighter time (using the jaws of life, for example) is not covered. Neither is the cost for the time the road is shut down.
Hrrmm, I didn't know that.

stump said:
If a minor accident becomes a major accident because some fool doesn't wear his seatbelt then I have to bear the cost of sitting in traffic while they go through all the extra paperwork needed for a deadly accident.
:rofl
 

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To change the discussion a little bit, doesn't the State of New Hampshire still NOT have a mandatory seat belt law on the books, or has it changed? If NH still does not require seat belts, can the federal government authorize state troopers in NH to ticket for seat belt violations when it isn't even a violate of the law?
 
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