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Seatbelts and Risks

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Since my last seatbelt ticket I have given the seatbelt law some thoughts. While in my mind this is an oppressive rule, there is one other side of this law that I hadn't considered before. I have always argued against mandatory seatbelts due to infringement on personal freedom. I don't disagree that they can help save lives and minimize bodily harm. And yes, there is the potential for curbing additional societal cost (police, medical, etc.), but that could lead to the slippery slope of banning many activities since there's always some level of risk and potential financial loss associated with them.

My position is that as long as the risk is generally on the risk-taker, personal freedom should trump protection of self by coercion. In extending that argument to seatbelts, I had neglected to consider another side of this issue and that is the possibility of severe financial and emotional risk to others.

The new perspective popped into my head while driving to work the other day. Suppose that due to my negligence I cause an accident. And suppose the other driver wasn't wearing his seatbelt and as a result he is gravely injured or he dies. Since the accident was my fault I would be faced with a large financial liability, not to mention the emotional guilt I would suffer for causing injury or death to another individual. If only he was wearing his seatbelt, he might have walked away from the accident with superficial wounds. I would still be liable for property damage and medical treatment, but the scope of damages would be much smaller and my emotional stress would be nowhere near that of the first scenario.

So it can be argued that by not wearing my seatbelt I'm creating additional risk not only for myself but more importantly for other drivers as well. Looking at this argument from a non-selfish point of view I have now begun to realize that if I am the cause of an accident I hope that the other driver was buckled up. But even if the fault was with the other driver and he wasn't buckled up, I might still suffer the trauma of having been involved in a fatal collision. Judging on that, perhaps the seatbelt law isn't as oppressive as I had initially thought. Of course this argument can again enter a slippery slope and extend far beyond wearing seatbelts, but that's a subject for another time.

btw, which is the correct spelling, seatbelt or seat belt, or both? If had to guess I'd go with the latter (Wikipedia also has the latter), but I have also seen the former used frequently.


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