NMA Seat Belt Laws Fact Sheet ( PDF )
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In the early 1980’s, state legislators introduced legislation mandating the use of child restraints in automobiles. The argument was that children didn’t possess the judgement necessary to make important decisions and parents weren’t wise enough to make these decisions for their offspring. Legislators declared that these mandates would not lead to similar laws for adults.

A few years later, the auto industry, in an attempt to derail air bag requirements launched a $100 million lobbying campaign to pass belt laws in all states. Appeasing citizen resistance, most legislatures promised “secondary enforcement” and small fines. The official claim was “we just want to ‘encourage’ people to use seat belts.” (Secondary enforcement means you must commit another offense before an officer can issue a citation.)

In 2002, we entered the third phase of this duplicity (primary enforcement), ticketing motorists merely for failure to wear seat belts.

Lest you think this is the end, rest assured there is more to follow. Look forward to extortionist fines, license violation points and insurance surcharges. Politicians may claim this will never happen, but then again, they also said there would never be any primary enforcement. (Primary enforcement means no other reason is needed to stop you.)

This current campaign is based on dubious premises: Motorists are too stupid to be educated on the value of seat belts. Motorists are incapable of exercising personal judgement concerning their personal safety. Primary enforcement seat belt laws will significantly reduce insurance costs. Thus, the government must step in and force you to buckle up, for your own good.

True, seat belts increase safety. But so does maintaining an ideal body weight.

A person is more likely to live longer if they eat properly and exercise daily. However, we don’t have a ban on potato chips and mandatory sit-ups each day. If the justification for seat belts is that it’s for your own health and safety, it’s only a little farther down the slippery slope to regulate lifestyle choices.

Our belief is that it’s up to you to make your own decisions. The government shouldn’t be forcing anyone to do anything for their own good.

It’s true, that in many cases, you are safer with a belt on. However, there is ample proof that in certain accidents, people were more seriously injured or killed only because of their seat belt. Mandatory seat belt law proponents occasionally acknowledge that some people do die because of seat belts, but those fatalities are instantly dismissed as “insignificant.”

There is ample proof, that in certain accidents, people have survived only because a seat belt was not used — injured, perhaps, but not dead. In 30% of fatal accidents, where a person is ejected from the vehicle, the person remaining in the vehicle is the fatality.

In a free society, if a person is injured or killed because they freely chooses to use or not use a seat belt, that is a personal tragedy, as it is with all other kinds of freely chosen risks in life. However, if a person is injured or killed because the government forced that person to use a certain device against their will, that is an unacceptable tragedy.

Whether it is mandatory seat belt laws or any other “protect us from ourselves” regulation, this isn’t a legitimate function of government.

According to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, unbelted passengers cost society 26 billion dollars. While this number is greatly inflated and lacks even a modest level of sophistication, it exemplifies the government’s attempt to hoodwink the public with scary numbers and the implication that unbelted accident victims are single-handedly responsible for sky-rocketing insurance premiums and health care costs.

Even if the $26 billion was close to reality (which it isn’t), it constitutes less than two-tenths of one percent of the annual national expenditure for health expense. That’s twenty cents out of every $100 spent on health care! For this, we should accept mandatory seat belt laws and the predatory enforcement of such laws?

Do we really want to give up our personal choices and individual freedoms to save a few pennies each year in insurance premiums?

If you want added motorist harassment, increased fines and insurance surcharges, and less personal discretion, then support primary belt laws. But, please understand that belt laws won’t reduce insurance and medical expenditures. It hasn’t happened yet and it isn’t going to happen. All it will do is transfer more money from your pocket to the police, politicians, and insurance companies.