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MADD and the nanny state

Some of the first news I heard this morning was that the Massachusetts chapter of MADD (Mothers Against Driving Drunk) was calling for a change in the commonwealth's seat belt laws. Currently the law mandates seat belt use, but it isn't a "primary enforcement" offense -- you can't be stopped for simply not wearing your belt; you can only be cited for it after being stopped for another offense. I predict it'll pass.

The Massachusetts Legislature has a record of flat-out lying to people through "creeping incrementalism." When they first debated a mandatory seat belt law, first it was "for minors only." Then it was "mandatory, but it won't be a surchargeable offense." (Meaning that it wouldn't affect violators' insurance rates.) Then it "would be a surchargeable offense, but not a primary enforcement offense." Now they want to make it a primary enforcement offense, giving the police yet another reason (on top of the 1300+ reasons already on the books) to pull you over.

Can anyone tell me the link between drunk driving and seat belts? Are drunks usually so uncoordinated they can't connect the tab and the buckle of their seat belts? Does the smell of alcohol somehow weaken the fabric of a seat belt?

Here's a bit from MADD's on web site:

Seat belts save lives. For every percentage point the national seat belt usage rate increases, an additional 280 lives are saved per year. (Runge, 2003) Every state but New Hampshire requires its citizens to wear seat belts. Unfortunately, over half of US states have secondary enforcement laws, meaning that a law enforcement officer has to pull someone over for a different violation and only then is able to write an additional citation for a seat belt violation. This means that officers can pull someone over for a broken taillight, but they can't pull someone over for failing to use the most important piece of safety equipment in the car – the seat belt.

Yeah, that's right, Cow Hampshire doesn't have a mandatory seat belt law for people over 18. If you want to drive without a seat belt in Cow Hampshire, that's fine with us. We also don't have a mandatory helmet law for adults on motorcycles.

Here in Cow Hampshire, our attitude is simple. I call it "Active Darwinism." If you want to be stupid, go right ahead and be stupid. We don't believe in the "nanny state" that seems to rule elsewhere, especially just south of us. And if you kill yourself in the process, that just means there's less stupidity in the gene pool. (For more examples of "Active Darwinism," watch "Cops" or "Jackass.")

But there's one statistic that MADD won't cite. Cow Hampshire has consistently shown HIGHER seat belt use than Massachusetts residents. (Or, as we affectionately call them when they're being annoying, "Massholes.") And that's significantly higher numbers -- usually a good 10-15%. We know a good thing. And more importantly, we know a bad thing when we see it.

If you want to be a moron and drive without a seat belt, go right ahead. Just be warned -- you will NOT be practicing your idiocy in any vehicle I'm driving, and you won't get a lot of sympathy if you splatter yourself over the highway. But it's your choice.


Obligatory disclaimer #1: My personal policy on seat belts is simple: I always wear one. Every single time. I've caught myself buckling up before backing my car out of my garage, even though I have to get out to close the door again ten feet later. And if you ride with me, you buckle up, too. No exceptions.

Obligatory disclaimer #2: Drunk driving is stupid. It's illegal, and ought to be more illegal. In high school, I was a member of SADD. In college, I was a member of a safe-ride program. I wouldn’t go quite as far as Iran, where the first offense gets you executed, but I’m heading that way.

Comments (7)

Come work in the court syst... (Below threshold)

Come work in the court system with me, where I see the results of drunk driving every day. Iran may be onto something.

As for seatbelts, my kids were about five before they realized I was lying when I told them the car wouldn't start if the seatbelts weren't latched. But it worked - seat belts are a habit to them now. And no one rides in my car without wearing one.

We are of like minds on the... (Below threshold)

We are of like minds on these issues, Jay. About 20 years ago, I decided that always using my seatbelt made a lot of sense. I would never ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

The fact that the state tells me to do these things really chaps my ass. Maybe I'm just being contrarian, but with the well-known ability to make statistics say whatever you want, I've always had my doubts about the claimed "costs to society" of people not following these common sense safety procedures. It's just hard for me to believe.

"Active Darwinism" is a good approach.

we're in 100% agreement unt... (Below threshold)

we're in 100% agreement until you state that wearing a helmet will save your life... all it does is make it 1) easier to clean up your brains and 2) more likely that you'll become a burden on someone else when you're a vegetable when you should have been a victim of "active Darwinism" as you call it.

I worked as a bodily injury... (Below threshold)

I worked as a bodily injury claim rep for a large insurance company for several years.

I can tell you that there IS a connection between drunk driving and not wearing seat belts.

Drunks hop in their cars and usually forget to buckle up. A California highway patrol officer will tell you that when they stop someone for not wearing a seat beat, there is a very good chance that the driver will be DUI.

I lost someone very close to me in a horrible drunk driving accident. The drivers of all three cars involved were drunk (including the one my friend was riding in).

My friend was in a two seater Fiero. A girl was sitting on his lap in the passenger seat. The driver suddenly turned left into oncoming traffic on Pacific Coast Highway. My friend was ejected from the car and landed on the highway. He was run over by another car that then lost control crashed.

If my friend had been wearing a seatbelt, he wouldn't have been ejected and the people in the other car would not have been killed when they tried to avoid running over him.

I can give you dozens of similar stories in which seatbelts would have saved the lives of innocent people -- those riding in the same vehicle or another vehicle. If you don't wear a seatbelt, you can become a flying missle. You can go through the windshield or an open door and end up on the highway where you are just another dangerous object on the road. Or as a passenger, you could fly into the frontseat and kill someone riding in front of you. Countless people have had their skulls fractured when the head of another passenger crashed into it at 65 MPH.

I won't even go into how not wearing seatbelts increases insurance rates for everyone. That should be obvious.

So, when people present the argument that wearing seatbelts should be a matter of choice, they really don't know the facts.

I've given drafts for insurance policy limits to far too many family members who have been left with a brain-damaged loved one. By choosing not to wear a seatbelt, these people chose to be a burdon on their families for decades. They chose to cost taxpayers billions in social security payments.

Mandatory seatbelt laws just make sense.

Jim, I've ridden a motorcyc... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Jim, I've ridden a motorcycle exactly once, and that as a passenger. I'll defer to those who ride whether it's better or not to wear a helmet -- and New Hampshire agrees.

Fritz, where does it end? Wearing seat belts is a good thing -- I agree. I bet wearing helmets while driving would also increase safety. Also, we could require carmakers to put governors that keep cars from speeding.

I had a girlfriend who refused to wear a seat belt while driving because if she got into an accident, the combination of that seat belt and her air bag would be likely to kill her. (She was 5' tall.) For years air bags were mandated in all cars, and it was illegal to disable them -- even in cases like hers where the air bag posed a threat to her life.

So, Fritz, where does it end? Where does the government's right to control our personal life end, and where do we have to take responsibility for ourselves? For me, it's where our neglect for our own well-being poses an immediate hazard to others. This "financial burden" argument isn't a slippery slope, it's a heavily-greased wheelchair ramp.


Jay. Driving isn't a "perso... (Below threshold)

Jay. Driving isn't a "personal" activity. It is a SOCIAL activity -- one that must be regulated to ensure public safety.

You currently have the freedom to practice hanging yourself by the neck in the privacy of your own home -- a very dangerous personal activity. If you accidentally kill yourself, it won't impact me. So, I don't think we should attempt to regulate this kind of activity.

Less graphic examples would be:

1) Mountain climbing
2) Overeating
3) Playing the bagpipes (okay, that's more graphic)

Driving an automobile or riding a motorcycle don't compare to these types of personal activities. The government has an obligation to see that people drive safely and use the proper safety equipment. They also are obligated to ensure that cars and motorcycles are free from manufacturing defects. They must ensure that the roads we SHARE are safe.

Everyone should take personal responsibility, right? Well, let's just do away with the DMV and driving tests. After all, we don't want to place restrictions on driving. Let's do away with all of those other pesky rules like driving on the right side of the road, waiting for the light to turn green, etc. That's just the government trying to control your personal life, man! Down with government! Down with laws! It is all just a slippery slope. The next thing you know, they'll be passing out condoms to kindergärtners! Aaaaaagh!

That's a false analogy, Fri... (Below threshold)

That's a false analogy, Fritz. Not wearing a seatbelt while driving has absolutely zero impact on how safe a driver you are. Similarly, not wearing a helmet when you drive a motorcycle doesn't make it more likely that you're going to have an accident.

What you're talking about is the social cost of the shared expense of those who suffer injuries as a result of the failure to use employ safety equipment.

Therefore, the most reasonable response is to increase the premiums for those who use unsafe practices. Or better yet, disallow coverage if a driver isn't using the appropriate safety equipment.

The cost to society is financial. The proper response is not legal, it's financial.






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