Term Paper: Seatbelt Laws: Matter of Choice

Pages: 15 (4244 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] The risk to black children ages five to 12 dying in a crash are almost three times as great as that of white children." The same study also revealed that Hispanic children aged 12 and under is twice as likely to die in a car crash than that of other children of the same age group.

Familial Influences.

Children whose parents do not use seat belts are at a great risk. Children risk loosing their parents in a fatal car crash since it has been proven that if seat belts are not used one has a higher chance of dying in a collision. Further, children whose parents do not buckle up themselves are less likely to use restraints for their children. Ergo, children who are not buckled up by their parents as a child are less likely to use seat belts when they reach driving age. The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission points out that some parents feel that the use of child safety seats are too inconvenient, out of their financial reach, or too difficult to install. Others are uninformed or misinformed about correct child safety seat use. Parent's ignorance and laziness has resulted in a 50% rate of children who are unrestrained dying in collisions.

Opposition to Mandatory Seat Belt Laws

What about those who feel mandatory seat belt laws is a violation of persona liberty? The common consensus among opponents of seat belt laws is that imposing seat belt laws is a fundamental violation of ones personal rights. Some people regard the decision to wear seatbelts as a personal health choice, thereby making it impossible for the government to impose personal health decisions on individuals, as it would be unconstitutional. Critics of such laws present a kind or morale hazard citing that those who wear seat belts may drive more aggressively in the belief that if there is a crash, they are likely to survive. Sam Peltzman author of The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation (1975) presented in the Journal of Political Economy hypothesized that safer auto's would lead to more aggressive driving that would endanger those on the road. A London-based organization called "Choice in Personal Safety" upholds the belief that society sees him or her (a motorist) as a potential criminal who has to be regulated down to the last detail. No other section of society gets that treatment."

Racial Tensions.

Some also cite racial profiling as a reason against mandatory seat belt laws.

According to a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union in Ohio, "It's not unusual for citizens to complain to us about being stopped by police for nothing more serious than a broken taillight, only to find themselves the target of a barrage of intrusive and unnecessary questions about where they are going and whether they have any drugs or weapons in the cars." This is of particular concern to some minorities who believe that they are unfairly singled out by police, such a law would only increase the number of minorities being harassed by law enforcement agents. Unfortunately, the law tends not to be on the side of minorities. In 1996, The Supreme Court ruled that it is constitutional for police to stop motorists for violation of any traffic law, even if the officer has an ulterior motive.

Gender Bias.

In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that police officer may search a passenger's belongings simply because he suspects the driver has done something wrong. This makes all passengers subject to search if the driver is pulled over for not wearing his or her seat belt. Even though the ruling only includes passenger belongings and not the passenger's person, some people, especially women feel that the law is unfair since women usually carry purses, which is a belonging, therefore subject to search. On the other hand however, the law less affects men, who usually carry their personal property on them.

Opponents to seat belt laws do believe that seat belts are safer; there is no denying the fact. However, the contention remains that a person should wear a seat belt if he or she chooses, not because the law tells them to. It seems as if critics of mandatory seat belt laws do not want "Big Brother" watching over them. Dr. Linda Gorman a senior fellow at the Independence Institute study finds that no locality that has put seat belt laws into effect has shown evidence of a decreased incidence in accident related deaths. Dr. Gormans' study finds the corollary, when those who ordinarily did not wear seat belts were asked to do so; they drove faster, followed more closely, and braked later. Therefore, she concluded that when "reckless people are forced to wear seat belts, they 'compensate' for the increased safety by driving more recklessly."

Method

What accounts for the differences in opinion for seat belts laws? Admittedly, both sides agree that seat belts saves lives, what makes people want to refuse to wear seat belts just to retain an insignificant part of their personal freedom? For this paper, data was collected on how people feel about laws requiring the use of seat belts. Observations were randomly sampled and asked to answer a series of questions about seat belt use. All of those surveyed were adults at least 16 years of age, from various states with seat belt laws. The purpose of the survey was to determine how different groups of people fell about seat belt laws and to what extent they are accepted

Results

Aggregate Results

An overwhelming majority of respondents support laws that require both the driver and the front seat passenger to wear seat belts. Not surprisingly, those who are full time users of seat belts favored mandatory seat belt laws more than those who are part time or non-users of seat belts. Additionally, of those who gave the green light for seat belt laws in the front seat also favored seat belts laws for those in the back seat as well. More than half reported that they believed that fines are adequate punishment for those who did not wear seat belts while operating a motor vehicle, However, that number was slashed in half when participants were asked if they support laws making it possible for people who do not use their seat belts to loose points off their license. Those polled also favored laws that were somewhat lenient on first time offenders and more aggressive on second time and subsequent offenders. Respondents were then asked how large a fine would have to be in order to encourage future use of seat belts. More than half believed that a fine of at least 20 dollars would convert non-users and part time users into full time users. However one third of those polled were still doubtful that a fine would work even if the fine were $50.00. Furthermore, the survey also asked respondents about their attitude toward receiving a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. Of those who said they were totally in favor of seat belt laws, 84% said they if they received a ticket for not wearing a seat belt it would have been well deserved. When the question was asked to 42% of those who favored seat belt laws "some" the majority believed that the ticket would be unfair. Finally, people were polled about their knowledge of seat belt laws in their home states. All but 6% of people believed that their state has some sort of laws requiring the use of seat belts. When asked who they think that the law covered

More respondents believed that the law applied to drivers (93%), children in the front seat (86%), and adults in the front (85%). Seventy-six percent also thought their state laws covered children in the front seat. The survey also reported 42% assumed that it was mandatory for adults to wear seat belts in the back seat.

Race.

According to the survey African-Americans and Hispanics supported mandatory seat belt laws more than other groups. 95% of Hispanics and 94% of African Americas believe that mandatory seat belt laws are a good idea. African-Americans (67%) and Hispanics (75%) liked the idea of using fines for violations of the seat belt law. However, when the question was extended to the use of points off the license as a consequence for violating seat belt laws an overwhelming majority opposed such a law. Hispanics were the group with the highest number in favor of the law with 46% of respondents that were in agreement with the law. More Hispanics and African-Americans felt that if they were ticketed for not wearing their seat belt they would hold the belief that they deserved the ticket because they broke the law. The survey reveals that 70% of African-Americans hold this belief and 76% of Hispanics hold this belief… [END OF PREVIEW]

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