Monday, June 11, 2007

I got your belt right here 

Lloyd Garver asks how dare New Hampshirites not have a seat belt law. How dare they!
The first time I saw "Live Free or Die" on a license plate, I knew that it had to be the best slogan of any state. I loved its defiant pride. But now, in the area of seat belts and safety, that spirit of "nobody's going to tell us what to do" just doesn't make sense.

Currently, New Hampshire is the only state that doesn't have a mandatory seat belt law. They do require that restraints be used for children and teenagers, but not for adults. Wednesday (May 31), their state senate is scheduled to vote on such a bill. The New Hampshire Senate Transportation and Interstate Committee voted three to two to recommend that the bill be killed. If it is, obviously some of the people of New Hampshire will also suffer that fate.
The bill failed in the NH Senate.

One member of the committee who voted against the bill, Bob Clegg, says, "I choose not to buckle, and I think it's baloney that the government would tell me that I have to, or else."
I grew up with "Live Free or Die", and with "Ax the Tax" Mel Thompson, Bill Loeb, and the rest of what makes New Hampshire the most libertarian state in the union (this is a test to see if I have Alaskan readers.) We don't use seat belts, but we know how to drive. And there is some evidence that the effects of seat belt laws on traffic fatalities is greatly exaggerated, as having a seat belt changes the behavior of drivers.
It seems to me that this attitude underestimates the people of New Hampshire. Any group that could come up with "Live Free or Die" is not stupid. They're not a bunch of immature adolescents who resent it when their parents say they have to do their homework before they go out, and then don't do their homework and sneak out. We're talking about mature, intelligent adults. Just to be defiant, do they speed up when they see a sign that says "School Zone?" Do they sell liquor to kids because they resent that there's a law against it? Do they go to work naked because they don't feel the government should tell them they have to wear clothes?
No, you idiot. We don't need government to tell us how to be civilized. We don't need government to tell us to be courteous. And we don't need government to tell us to do certain things because it passed a law to take someone else's money to pay for something I would have paid for myself. If I have to do what you say because you paid my bill, then as the George Bernand Shaw line goes, we know what I am, we're just haggling over price.
Some people believe, "If the only one I may hurt is me, why should the government be involved?" Proponents of seat belt laws point out that New Hampshire would get $3.7 million from the Federal government for enacting a seat belt bill, and the state would save an estimated $48 million in medical costs. That money's not "baloney."

Putting money aside, if you are a victim of an accident because you don't use a seat belt, you aren't the only one affected � what about the loved ones left behind? Should they have to suffer because you wanted the government to "mind its own business?"
In a word, yes. Who's in a better position to decide what my family can endure, me or the government? As Winston Churchill once observed, the power of man has grown in every sphere, except over himself. New Hampshirites try to conquer that last frontier, and good for them.

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