October 4, 2011
Death by Seatbelt
The question of how imperative is it to enforce seatbelt laws in order to mitigate or reduce the number of deaths in the United States resulting from automotive accidents. The answer may somewhat obscure; the reason being because this issue has been an ongoing debate since 1849. “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States among persons aged 5–34 years” (vital signs: Nonfatal, motor vehicle, 1681). Edward J. Claghorn, patented the concept of seatbelt safety and from then on, the question whether or not it is vital to enforce a seat belt law has been the topic of many political debates. The answer may be somewhat obscure, given that many American’s feel that it is a violation of their rights to have such a law enforced upon them. Contrary to popular beliefs, seat belts have been shown to be the most effective method for reducing injuries in the event of a car crash. Seat belts, given the beneficial statistics, should then be reinforced under United States law. The United States currently has a primary and secondary law regarding seat belt safety, with the exception of New Hampshire. This primary law allows law enforcement to issue a citation to the driver not wearing a seat belt regardless if a traffic violation has occurred. This primary law is enforced by twenty-nine states through the nation. With states under the secondary law, law enforcement does not have the ability to issue a no seat belt citation, unless another traffic violation has occurred. This law is practiced amongst twenty states throughout the U.S. Although seatbelts laws have been set to protect us from injuries or even death from a car accident, some still argue against their use. Since laws for seatbelt have only been around the late 1970’s, drivers were already not wearing seatbelts because there was no law at the time and/or there were no seatbelts in their vehicles. Other argues that seatbelt usage should be a personal choice rather than regulated by laws. They believe that the government is infringing on their freedom and that the choice to wear a seat belt should be reserved to the public. With disregarding this law and lack of proper enforcement more lives have been lost which quite possibly could have been prevented. In 2006 alone more than 50% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes were discovered not wearing seat belts (Advocate for highway and auto safety). Some Americans even believe that with a closer distance of travel, it is not necessary to wear a seatbelt. However, to refute this claim, most automotive accidents have in fact taken place in close proximity to a persons’ home. There is just no telling when you will have a devastating encounter on the road. Another popular argument that sparks a lot of debate for those who opt out of seat belts is that, they are a good enough driver to do so. The problem you run into with this is that not everyone on the road has the same equivalent driving skills, whether it's good or bad. Even the esteemed may oppose the seatbelt enforcement concept. During my freshman year of college, I had a Business Law professor who favored strongly against seat belt use. Her argument for not wearing a seat; was cases where passengers of automotive accidents are severely injured or even die as a direct result of wearing a seatbelt stemming from the seat belt malfunctioning. That same individual may have had a better chance of surviving the accident had he not wore a seat belt. Imagine that, you have just been involved in an automotive accident; a head on head collision with another car, your car is flipped over and on fire. How can you one save themselves when they are in fact trapped in the burning car and cannot release your seatbelt because it is stuck? The same contraption that was developed to save you might be the same contraption that can hinder your chances of survival. That question...