FACTS ABOUT MANDATORY SEAT BELT HARNESS LAWS
By William J. Holdorf
This information is not being provided to debate the value of using or not using a seat belt, nor to oppose or discredit voluntary seat belt use. Its main purpose is to oppose and discredit all seat belt laws and to protect our Constitutional rights to freely choose our own individual personal safety and health care standards without government interference or coercion.
The vast majority of the people have always opposed seat belt laws and further opposition has been growing across the U.S. as the police increase harassment of motorists using lucrative overtime pay supplied by federal funds (bribes) to enforce such laws.
Below are some facts about seat belt laws and why such laws are wrong for America.
1. Seat belt laws represent unabated tyranny on the march as each year law enforcement is expanded. Such laws infringe on a personís rights as guaranteed in the Fourth, Fifth, and the Ninth Amendments, and the Civil Rights section of the Fourteenth Amendment.
2. Seat belt laws are an unwarranted intrusion by government into the personal lives of citizens; they deny through prior restraint the right to determine a personís own safety and health standards for his own body, the ultimate private property. Not using a seat belt is a victimless, state-created crime that does not hurt or threaten anyone.
3. While the use of a seat belt has saved some people in some traffic accidents, there is ample proof that in other kinds, some people have been more seriously injured and even killed only because of forced seat belt use. In the latter case, that means the state is knowingly and willingly a party to random premeditated wrongful deaths, a criminal offence if committed by an individual in the private sector. Also, the injuries and deaths caused by forced seat belt use are not given the same degree of publicity, if any, as given when people are supposedly saved by seat belt use, thus in compiling traffic accident data, that exaggerates the so-called benefit of seat belt laws, which misleads the public into thinking seat belt use automatically means safety; non-use automatically means death in all kinds of accidents, which is false.
4. In spite of the fact the government is forcing the use of a device that can be injurious and even lethal in certain situations, the government refuses to be held financially responsible for such injuries or deaths. Instead, the government expects the injured or survivors of those killed to obtain financial satisfaction from their own savings, or insurance, or by suing the auto makers.
5. There is also ample proof that some people have survived a traffic accident only because a seat belt was not used Ė injured, perhaps, but not dead. Such persons, by law, are subject to a citation and a fine for not dying in the accident using a so-called safety device arbitrarily chosen by politicians. Traffic accident data on such traffic accidents only reflect one more injury without using a seat belt, which, again, exaggerates the so-called benefit of seat belt laws.
6. If a person is killed while using a seat belt, law supporters claim the accident was so severe not even a seat belt could save the person. That might be true in some cases, but the severity of an accident is never mentioned in compiling a list of persons killed while not using a seat belt, which adds to the bias and misrepresentation in compiling traffic accident data in favor of seat belt laws.
7. Evidence of seat belt use increasing injuries or causing a personís death is well documented in the hundreds of successful lawsuits filed against the auto makers since the advent of seat belt laws in 1985. Court ordered settlements and punitive damage awards forced the auto makers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the injured or survivors of those killed as a result of the failure of the seat belt to save as promised. Some lawsuits were settled out of court which sealed the evidence of seat belt design defects from the public, including other lawyers with similar cases.
8. Hundreds of thousands of autos, vans and light trucks have been recalled as a result of discovering defects in certain seat belt designs after the fact, which means the motoring public has been forced by law to become unwilling guinea pigs, unlike how all other products in the marketplace are treated. In a letter published in the September/October 1990 edition of AAA World, a publication of the Chicago Motor Club, Jerry Curry, NHTSA Administrator, said: We opened 213 new defect investigations in 1989, the highest one-year figure in the agencyís history. A total of 6.8 million vehicles were recalled that year, a million more than the national average. While Mr. Curry did not say how many such recalls involved seat belt defects, such recalls, again, reflect how the public is being used as guinea pigs for automotive products.
9. By law, a sane person has the right to refuse any personal health care device, drug, treatment, or surgery, even if such refusal might result in an earlier death or an increase in medical expenses. Seat belt laws violate that right, that is, to freely choose to use or not to use a "health care" seat belt. Any medical professional attempting to do the same would be prosecuted, yet politicians claim they can ignore the law while demanding strict compliance from the private sector.
10. In 1991 the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the right to determine oneís individual personal health care standard in the Johnson Controls case. Also, a federal appeals court upheld a $100,000 award in 1993 to a 320 pound woman who sued the state of Rhode Island for refusing to hire her back to work unless she lost weight. The federal Equal Opportunity Commission had earlier ruled obesity a protected right under the Act, and the court agreed even though obesity is not mentioned in the Act and is a self-inflicted serious health hazard causing more medical expenses and premature deaths each year than highway fatalities. Further, on June 10, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Echazabal v. Chevron case that Chevron could not refuse to hire Echazabal who had a liver ailment for a position in its refinery where the job environment would, according to medical experts, exacerbate his liver ailment. The courtís ruling in such cases clearly proves that each person has a right to make his/her own individual personal health care decisions even if such is hazardous to oneís health and even if such will increase medical expenses.
11. While there is extensive and widespread national news media publicity always given information in support of seat belt laws, research and studies published in trade journals by independent professionals, that is, those not on the federal payroll, which challenges the so-called benefit of such laws, is never printed in the national news media, thus the public is denied the right to know there is a legitimate and well documented contrary side to the seat belt law controversy.
12. At one time, it was the same with air bags until one investigative reporter decided to start printing the truth about air bag dangers in certain kinds of traffic accidents. The bureaucrats in the U.S. Dept. of Transportation were so adamant against telling the public about such dangers, which the public had a right to know, the reporter had to use the Freedom of Information Act to force the government to release its own records of air bag injuries and deaths.
Primary enforcement states
The insidious nature of seat belt laws is shown even further in states with primary enforcement of the law. The following is what can happen in states with primary enforcement:
1. Your vehicle can be stopped anytime, day or night, by the police merely under suspicion a seat belt is not being used. And even if mistaken, once the vehicle is stopped the officer can begin routine interrogation and testing Ė force occupants to exit Ė visually check out the contents of the inside of the vehicle looking for any kind of a violation of the law, all without the right of legal counsel; all under the pretense of not using a seat belt.
2. Primary enforcement encourages the use of random roadblocks. In a 1994 statewide campaign, North Carolina conducted 2,038 roadblocks in just two weeks under the pretext of checking for seat belt use. In spite of further use of random roadblocks that year, which the governor boasted increased seat belt use to 80%, total highway fatalities actually increased in the state for 1994 over the record of each of the preceding 3 years.
3. If not using a seat belt, you could be stopped for a minor traffic violation that otherwise would be ignored if using a seat belt. You may also be targeted because of a bumper sticker, your license plate, your age, race, or gender. Primary enforcement opens the door for police harassment, stalking, intimidation and profiling. Young people, women, and minorities are vulnerable, especially when traveling alone and at night, or in certain neighborhoods.
4. You are subject to an officerís misinterpretation of your answers, your attitude, or what the officer sees in your vehicle. You could become the victim of a corrupt act, such as planting drugs in your vehicle by an officer. You could be accused of using drugs because the cash in your possession has the odor of drugs. Officers can confiscate your cash and vehicle if there is some drug residue without proving you knew about or caused the residue to be there. Courts have recognized most currency in circulation has some discernible drug residue. It is reported that 80% of the assets confiscated by law enforcement do not lead to a criminal charge, but only a small percent is ever returned. Confiscation of assets has become a lucrative business for some police agencies and offers big incentives to increase roadblocks and speed traps.
5. Some states issue a seat belt violation fine against the driver even if the driver is using a seat belt but a passenger is not, and even if the driver did not know about it. Drivers, therefore, could easily become distracted while driving by a constant watch of passengers, both adults and children in the rear seat.
6. Primary enforcement is an easy way to enhance state revenue through fines. Also, additional income comes from the federal government in the form of grants (bribes) to pay the police to enforce the seat belt law. Such grants are used by the police as lucrative overtime pay while enforcing the seat belt law, which is why the police support primary enforcement laws. Such lucrative overtime pay helps relieve pressure for a police salary increase. And in some areas where job performance standards include a citation quota, seat belt violations offer easy compliance.
7. Some insurance companies target seat belt law violations as an excuse to increase rates even for drivers without an accident or moving violation record. In fact, even if you habitually use a seat belt but forget just once, that might be the time an officer stops your vehicle, thus your driving record is unjustly marred.
8. Some states level points against a driverís license for not using a seat belt in addition to a fine, which means a person is being punished twice for the same offense. Also, it means a driverís license could eventually be suspended for repeated offenses even if the driver has been a careful driver for years with no accident or moving traffic violation.
9. If you are medically exempted from seat belt use, your vehicle could still be stopped since an officer cannot know until you are stopped. This applies to drivers who are using a seat belt but a passenger is not using one because of an exemption. Even with a medical exemption, once the vehicle is stopped, the officer can begin routine interrogation, testing and visually looking for any kind of a violation of the law. Persons with medical exemptions are also subject to being stopped repeatedly during any travel route by other officers along the way. Also, providing an officer with your confidential medical records and exemption is a violation of your right of privacy.
10. Primary enforcement is promoted as saving lives, however, stopping vehicles for non-seat belt use is only an excuse to arbitrarily and capriciously accuse people of traffic violations of one kind or another, thus issuing citations as a means of easily increasing revenue, as well as providing easy lucrative overtime income for the police. Primary enforcement has nothing to do with saving lives; has all to do with revenue enhancement at the expense of fleecing the motoring public.
11. While seat belt law supporters want the public to believe that passing a primary enforcement law will reduce highway fatalities, the governmentís own 1998 report documented just the opposite. In the federal publication "Traffic Safety Facts 1998," under the heading "Occupant Protection," is the following information:
"A 1995 NHTSA study, Safety Belts Use Laws: An Evaluation of Primary Enforcement and Other Provisions, indicates that states with primary enforcement safety belt laws achieved significantly higher belt use than did those with secondary enforcement laws. The analysis suggests that belt use among fatality injured occupants was at least 15 percent higher in states with primary enforcement laws."
In other words, while primary enforcement does increase forced seat belt use, there is also a 15 percent increase in fatalities as compared with states with secondary enforcement laws. That is, the very purpose of forcing seat belt use is defeated by an increase in highway fatalities in states with primary enforcement laws according to this study.
Politicians have no authority to willingly and knowingly force some people to maim or kill themselves in some traffic accidents just because they hope others will be saved in other accidents merely by chance. The Constitution forbids the government from taking chances with a personís body, the ultimate private property. The government has no right to play Russian roulette with a personís life.
Also, the fact is, not one penny of the hundreds of millions of tax dollars spent in support of seat belt laws since 1985 has ever prevented even one accident. Conversely, because we feel safer wearing our seat belts, studies have shown that we tend to drive more recklessly. This is known as "risk compensation,." which is covered in more details in the 1995 book, "Risk" by Dr. John Adams, University College London, England. The book also gives other reasons against seat belt laws. The book is available through www.amazon.com
The hundreds of millions of tax dollars spent on seat belt law support and enforcement would be better spent on road improvements and repairs. "The Road Information Program" (TRIP), a Washington, D.C. non-profit organization, estimated that every #100 million invested in highway safety improvements will result in approximately 145 fewer traffic fatalities over a 10 year period. Their 9-19-04 website, www.tripnet.org, list 12 kinds of road and bridge improvements along with the resulting percentages of reduction in fatality rates. Seat belt laws or seat belt law enforcement were not listed.
In a free society, if a person is injured or killed in a traffic accident because he/she freely choose to use or not to use a seat belt, that is a personal tragedy, as it is with all other kinds of freely chosen risks in a personís employment, recreation and daily life. That is freedom working. However, if a person is injured or killed in a traffic accident because the government forced that person to use a seat belt, that is tyranny working, and reflects injury and death by government.
The insidious nature of seat belt laws is further shown in the April 2001 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which foolishly ruled that it is legal for a police officer to arrest, handcuff and jail a woman for not using a seat belt in the Atwater/Lago Vista (Texas) case, including impounding her vehicle.
You are free to make copies of this information to spread support for seat belt law repeal efforts. Send copies to your governor, state legislators, the U.S. president and members of Congress, as well as local newspaper editors. Contact any local radio talk-show host and bring up the question of repeal. Also, only vote for candidates for elected office who promise to support repeal if elected and vote out elected officials who refuse to support repeal efforts.
Dr. Robert S. Hattner, M.D., Internal Medicine & Neurology, a licensed California medical doctor is offering to review a personís medical conditions outlined in an application he prepared for a possible medical exemption. All seat belt laws allow a medical exemption and if granted it is a legal means for a person to freely choose not to use a seat belt. Some states might have special requirements so it is important to first read your state requirements for a medical exemption before investigating the possibility of obtaining a medical exemption from your own doctor or from Dr. Hattner.
© 2004 - William J. Holdorf - All Rights Reserved
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Bill Holdorf lives in Chicago and worked in the insurance industry for 23 years before retiring from management in which he audited financial records for more than 100 branch offices of his employer. Bill has worked tirelessly as an advocate to repeal seat belt laws and at 78 years young, plans to continue educating Americans about this issue. E-mail: Wholdorf@msn.com