Opinion: ‘You’re going to make me wear a seat belt!’

I’ve always worn a seat belt, even before a law was passed requiring it. I feel naked when I don’t buckle up. But at the same time I resent the government telling me I have to wear one. I’m old enough to make my own decisions. I don’t need or want a governmental baby sitter.

This is why the new seat belt law has me conflicted. I’ve made a free choice to wear my seat belt, but I do feel people have a right to be stupid and not wear one. On the other hand, the statistical data regarding how many people needlessly lose their lives in car crashes because they weren’t buckled up is overwhelming and the new seat belt law is changing this behavior. It is making people buckle up.

As far as having a right to be an idiot if you choose to: I still believe in that, but only if it doesn’t harm anybody else. I recently saw a public safety film in which three out of four teenagers buckled up, but the forth decided he would take his chances and didn’t wear a seat belt. None of them foresaw the horrific crash they would be in a short time later. The unbuckled teen became a flying projectile, resulting in the deaths of two passengers and permanent brain damage to the third buckled-up teen because of the impact of his body on theirs.

As a parent, I insist on my children wearing their seat belts. The thought of losing them is far too much for me to bear. Getting them to comply with this is much easier because I buckle up. But even if you’re in a car all by yourself and you don’t have to worry about being a role model for your children or becoming a flying projectile endangering others in the car, you really should buckle up for those you would be leaving behind if you die.

I’m not a fan of more laws and restrictions, but the new seat belt law and the threat of a $110 fine is changing behavior. I guess we’ll just have to live with this one. — Stephen Rohlf, Elk River

(Editor’s note: Rohlf works at Cornerstone Auto Resource and is a member of the Sherburne County Safe Roads Coalition.)


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