Tuesday, February 17, 2009

North Dakota State Legislature Rejects Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Law

The North Dakota State Legislature rejected a bill (free subscription required) to create a so-called primary enforcement seatbelt law. Such a law would empower police to pull over cars in which driver or passengers are observed not wearing a seatbelt. Today, seatbelts are mandatory but tickets can only be issued at traffic stops initiated by some other infraction.

I love it when government does something right. It doesn't happen all that often, so it warms my heart when any legislature votes on the side of personal freedom. When it's my legislature, well, it's like my birthday, Christmas, and Flag Day all rolled up into one.

Seatbelts are great. I always wear mine, and so does anyone riding with me. Short trip, long trip, doesn't matter, I always put it on. But the government shouldn't get to tell me I have to. Any legitimate government has an important role to play in protecting citizens. That role is to protect the rights of citizens from being infringed upon by other citizens. In other words, I'm all for government protecting me from others, and others from me. But don't try to protect me from myself. That's my job, and I have a right to fall asleep at the switch.

Anytime I talk about this with others I am invariably asked about accidents and saving lives and so on. I always reply the same way: saving lives is a noble goal. If you can show me a single instance where someone would have survived a crash if only someone else had been wearing a seatbelt, you might start to have the beginning of a case. But if I can only hurt myself by not wearing a seatbelt, why don't I have that choice?

I can't shout "fire" in a crowded theater or build a brothel in my backyard without a permit or drive drunk. Makes sense to me: these would be intentional acts that could infringe on other people's rights. If I die in a fiery wreck because I wasn't wearing a seatbelt, no harm no foul to you. Leave my cajun-kissed corpse alone; I brought it on myself.

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