Do seat belt laws work? Not Alabama’s. According to a Birmingham News article, sixty percent (60%) of those killed on Alabama highways in 2006 were not wearing their seat belt. Consequently, representatives are clamoring for tougher seat belt laws.
According to another statistic from various traffic analysts, the lack of a seat belt increases your risk of dying in a crash by eighty percent (80%). The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that if eighty-two percent (82%) of the public wore seat belts, deaths would be reduced by 15,700 nationwide, and serious injuries would be reduced by 350,000.
Why do people fail to wear their belt? Here are some of the reasons:
(1) wrinkles clothes;
(2) if the car plunges into water, the person can’t get out; and
(3) discomfort due to height or weight.
This issue brings up an age old question: Does the government have a right to tell individuals that they must wear a seat belt? The rationale is that it costs the public more if there are more serious injuries involved: an ambulance must come to the scene (or maybe air transportation), and there could be long term healthcare needs which must be paid by insurance or even Medicare or Medicaid. All of these issues, and more, affect the public at large. Notwithstanding the above, if someone is dumb enough to choose not to wear their seat belt, shouldn’t they have the right to not wear it? Isn’t this a free country? Not when it comes to seat belts.