Nanny State Rant – Seat Belt Enforcement

Life before seat belts and seat belt laws.

I can remember the old days before auto safety. We didn’t have seat belts. No one even imagined air bags. My first recollection about auto safety was for the 1955 Fords. Ford introduced a recessed center for the steering wheel. I believe they had a safety package which included the exotic and constraining seat belts. No self-respecting teenager like me gave them much thought but within ten years you couldn’t get a car without them. Overtime the seat belt morphed into the belt and shoulder strap, first as individual components and then as an integrated unit. I viewed this development with tolerance. They did save lives. I took to using them when driving.

People needed saving from their own negligence.

But seat belts were not enough to satisfy the crusaders. People were still getting killed from their own negligence so somehow do-gooders persuaded politicians to force automobile manufacturers to install air bags increasing the cost of automobiles substantially but since all cars had to have them, it was impossible for the consumer to know how much they cost. Now we were saddled with two redundant safety features in all cars, the benign and optional seat belts and the lethal and unavoidable air bag.

Get those kids to safety.

Now it was no longer safe for children to ride in the front seat because air bags were designed for adult sized bodies and are literally overkill for children. It is, of course, illegal to disable an air bag so a parent wanting to protect children risked serious fines and probably being accused- if not convicted- of child endangerment. I could go on about air bags which do cause injury and death and don’t get me started on child seats.

Criminalizing risk taking.

My rant is with seat belt laws. I remember when they were first introduced in California. At that time we were assured that they would only be used to issue a warning. That didn’t last long. Whether the impetus was California’s insatiable need for money to fund more government or just their understanding that individuals cannot make responsible decisions, they were soon making law enforcement an arm of the nanny state.

Turning Police into cash registers.

This was reinforced for me when my son driving home from classes released his seatbelt after turning onto our street and was chased into out driveway by a lurking CHP officer who gleefully wrote him up for a seat belt violation. Apparently there are not enough criminals or serious traffic offenders on the highways so the CHP has to lurk in residential neighborhoods to get their quota of violations (read dollars). Nothing is more damaging to our way of life than the destruction of our belief in law enforcement. As they are converted to a revenue source for the ever-hungry state government, normal, law abiding citizens like me increasingly distrust them with good reason.

Is it too late for personal responsibility?

I don’t know if there is still a chance for us to wake up and take control back of our lives or if we are past the point of no return. Some of the comments to a newspaper article on seat belt safety from Minnesota gives hope. Have any of you had similar experiences or view seat belt laws and enforcement as dangerous? Or do you think we really need the state to protect us? Let me know.

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