Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Confessions of an unbelted driver

On April 18, I was stopped and ticketed by a California Highway Patrol officer for not wearing a seatbelt.

On June 7, on the same stretch of highway, I was stopped and ticketed again by a CHP officer for failure to wear a seatbelt.

That may be a record — two seatbelt tickets in seven weeks — especially since, prior to this, I’d driven 35 years without wearing a seatbelt and without citation for having refused to do so.

Shortly after my second ticket, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ended its annual “Click It or Ticket” seatbelt campaign. Through that program, states get federal subsidies for ticketing drivers if they or their passengers aren’t properly belted into their vehicles. (Some states now equip state troopers with night vision goggles like the military uses in Iraq. That way, they can nab dangerous unbelted drivers under the cloak of darkness.)

I received very little sympathy from friends about my two seatbelt tickets. In fact, they wagged their fingers at me paternalistically. They didn’t give a damn about my freedom to take personal risks and drive without a seatbelt. Rather, they spouted the same argument you hear over and over in favor of repressive helmet laws: “If you don’t wear your seatbelt and you end up debilitated from a car accident, society will end up paying to take care of you!” Well, as columnist Walter Williams wrote not long ago, that’s not a problem of liberty and self-ownership; it’s a problem of socialism.

My harassment by the CHP seems to have stopped for the time being with the end of the seatbelt campaign. Of course, to avoid paying further fines that double with each subsequent citation, I do watch the roads more carefully and even “buckle up” occasionally like a Good Little Citizen, at least while driving along a certain stretch of Hwy 1.

Looks like my libertarian principles are worth about $200 in seatbelt tickets.

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8 Comments:

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

Wally,
Might I ask exactly *why* you don't wear a seatbelt? I'm completely with you that government should never force you to do something just because it's good for you, why would you choose not to do something that is good for you of your own volition?

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

At the risk of sounding flip (& I don't mean to), I don't wear a seatbelt for the same reason I don't eat enough vegetables. It's just a matter of preference. I feel more comfortable when I'm NOT strapped into my own car like a NASA test pilot. (I have no problem with wearing a belt when asked to do so in someone else's car, incidentally.)

I don't do a LOT of things that are good for me. Likewise, I do a lot of things that I know are probably bad for me...like smoke cigars, drink lots of coffee, and eat red meat.

 
At 4:10 PM, Anonymous k.d. said...

Wally, you naughty boy. Not for not wearing a seat belt, but for not fighting the tickets. Always fight tickets, it keeps the cops in the courts and off the streets.
Oh, and here's a tip: If you ever get stopped for that again, tell the cop you have either cracked or broken ribs and it is to painful to wear the restraints. Fight the ticket if you get one and tell the judge the same thing.

 
At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Barbara Harrison said...

I also have been stopped and fined for not wearing my seatbelt. What business is it of the CHP? Additionally, being a person of short stature,if there is an accident,I'll be crushed by the airbag anyway. It's my problem, not the CHP'S.

 
At 4:57 PM, Anonymous dp said...

We should all be glad Wally wears a belt for his pants.

 
At 5:09 PM, Anonymous kyfho said...

I happen to like Walter “E.” Williams. I don't always agree with him, but "that's the way the cookie crumbles," as they say. However, for those who would like to read Dr. William's article about wearing seat belts, please see http://www.townhall.com/columnists/walterwilliams/ww20050615.shtml.

I always wear a seatbelt. Not because of a federally mandated law to wear my seat belt, but for the very pragmatic reason that I can’t control my vehicle if I’m NOT IN THE SEAT!!! I learned this lesson during some serious off-road four-wheel driving, and, of course, on Wisconsin’s winter roads. But, as they say, “Stuff Happens.” (OK, hardly anyone says “Stuff” happens, but I’m trying to keep it ‘family oriented’ here.) Any time, any place, “stuff” can happen. So it is incumbent upon each of you to be prepared to STAY in control of your own vehicle, IF YOU WANT TO. How you do that is up to you.

I could regale you with stories about how hard it is to steer a vehicle from the floor NEXT to the driver’s seat, but I’m sure that you get the idea! I survived…and I learned. But that’s me; your mileage may vary.

I agree that the Feds have no right to decide this matter for you and to fine you when you choose not to comply. And that IS the issue!

As for wearing a seatbelt to fly under the JBT's radar, just tell yourself that you are on a mission that is too important to be disrupted by the JBTs. It may work.

 
At 7:20 PM, Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

Yeah, I'm not trying to preach... I've just been in enough accidents (three so far) that probably would have killed or disfigured me had I not been wearing one, so I don't get in a car without one.

But, like you, I'm not exactly safe in other respects. Pot of coffee a day, red meat, had a 75 mph motorcycle crash last year, etc etc... I just figure for my personal cost/benefit analysis, the discomfort of the belt is small compared to the possible effects of not wearing it.

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Just got ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt. Maybe I will start accepting this practice when they start ticketing every obese human being for overeating. How much are we paying these days for their diabetes, heart failure, etc. etc.?????

 

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