1.19.2011

Dear Senator

I recently learned of legislation that is making its way through Augusta to change the law that allows officers to pull people over for not wearing a seat belt. Honestly, if someone is foolish enough to not wear one, I agree with most libertarians that there's no need to waste a police officer's time by enabling them to pull people over because of it. But I don't care (well, I do, but... ) about the adult driver. This law does however protect innocent children from negligent parents.

My senator, Lois Snowe-Mello (R), is a co-sponsor of the bill. I sent her the following message:

Greetings Senator Snow-Mello, 
Congratulations are in order for your successful election, inauguration and return to Augusta. As a constituent, however, I am dismayed by your support and co-sponsorship of LD64 - An Act To Make a Violation of the Laws Governing Seat Belts a Secondary Offense, by Senator Ronald Collins.

I'm against restrictions on liberties as much as the next Mainer and it's not necessarily morally unreasonable to expect adults to suffer the consequences of their own poor choices. I could understand an amendment to the law that prevents officers from pulling over adult drivers for not having their own seatbelt on, but the current law protects innocent children from the potentially fatal consequences of their parents' neglect. Seat belts save lives. The correlation between accident fatalities and seat belts is closely linked as 6 out of 10 children that die in an accident were not wearing a seat belt.
 
Furthermore, seat belts reduce injuries from accidents and therefor the medical costs associated with treating them (costs which are then shared by everyone else through increases in insurance premiums and taxes.) Please review this report as evidence of an increased medical burden: Estimated Medical Cost Savings in Nevada by Implementing aPrimary Seat Belt Law 
Please consider revoking your sponsorship or proposing an amendment that would protect children. Allow our officers the ability to save the lives of minors by pulling over negligent drivers if their child passenger is not buckled. 
Regards,
-Jeremy Corbally-Hammond

Suffice to say, I was less than impressed with her brief response.


4 Intelligent Comment(s):

Michael said...

This sounds completely reasonable. I think the bill would have a better chance of success if it was amended, which is a different kind of argument.

I support it the way its written because while I agree children should be buckled, I think it's a difficult burden to place on the police. The children we want to help - small children - tend to sit low and I imagine it would be harder for the police to spot in a moving vehicle.

When Maine passed it's law requiring everyone to be buckled, it was assured that it would not be a primary offense - that people would have to be pulled over for something else for it to be enforced. That selling point was removed a few years after it went into effect. This bill would restore that.

So at the very least, I support you in requiring children to be buckled. I could go either way on pulling drivers over for it.

Jeremy Corbally-Hammond said...

I wouldn't advocate police go hunting for people without seat belts on their child passengers - as you're right, there's the logistical difficulty of it being difficult to see.

But I think an officer ought to at least be enabled to pull over a violation IF they see it. As a secondary offense, are they required to just let it go if the driver isn't doing anything else wrong? That doesn't seem right to me - not when children's lives are at risk.

Haha - and apparently children are a scarcer commodity in our state: http://www.pressherald.com/business/demographics-chart-maines-economic-destiny_2011-01-23.html?searchterm=maine+population

Andrew Lovley said...

I used to be adamantly opposed to seat-belt laws, for the typical libertarian reasons. I was so close to crafting a speech on the topic for my public speaking class. Yet as I did more research on the issue, it became apparent that unbuckled individuals can be tossed around violently in accidents and even harm those who are wearing seat-belts... I unfortunately had to revise my position. To wear your seat-belt is not a private decision. In consideration of that, I am now in support of seat-belt laws.

Jeremy Corbally-Hammond said...

Huh. In all accidents involving a passenger/driver who isn't buckled, what percentage of those caused injuries to another passenger from being tossed around?

I received ANOTHER response from my Senator. I think she may have forgotten she already replied - whatever - and I think her biggest concern is that it's not a big enough issue compared to other duties Police officers have.

My stance remains, I wouldn't want it to be a priority, but I wouldn't want to disallow an officer from stopping an accident from happening.

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