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Clash of the Titans XXXII: Helmet/Seat Belt Laws : Bweinh!

Clash of the Titans XXXII: Helmet/Seat Belt Laws

June 22, 2007, 11:00 am; posted by
Filed under Debate, Josh J, Steve  | 6 Comments

In this corner, supporting mandatory helmet and seat belt laws, is Steve!

And in this corner, opposing those laws, is Josh!

The case for mandatory helmet and seatbelt laws is simple — they save lives and money, with minimal invasion of individual privacy.

My distinguished opponent wears his seatbelt every time he gets in a car; I know because I’ve ridden with him scores of times. So I feel no compunction at all in saying that if you, the reader, don’t wear your seat belt in a car, or a helmet on a motorcycle, you are a moron. And if you actually think you might be better off in a crash without those items, you just might be a “9-11 was an inside job,” “Hooray, the wife wants to go on Springer,” “Let’s head to Vegas and spend a day feeding the slots”-level moron.

That’s not what we’re debating. Rational people accept that wearing a helmet or seat belt makes you safer, but should the government mandate such safety? Stupidity — even dangerous stupidity — is not enough reason (by itself) to outlaw something, which accounts for the continued legality of cigarettes, Ginsu knives, and high-speed Japanese motorcycles. The real question is when the state should step in and prevent idiots from doing things that are likely to endanger their well-being. These regulations differ from most others in that they appear to affect only the individual — but that’s misleading.

Injuries and deaths from the failure to wear seat belts and helmets harm society in at least two ways. First is the direct cost to society — hospital bills, etc. But the second is even more important — the senseless loss of a valuable citizen. If you crash a car and die for lack of a seat belt, you have deprived us all of the production and enjoyment from your life. You are unique and you simply CANNOT be replaced without hurting society — not to mention your family. The social contract that governs our actions in the civilized world trumps the me-first individualism libertarian intellectuals cook up with black lights and bongs, and feeble-minded imbeciles use to justify how their feeling the wind in their hair is more important than my seeing their brains all over my mailbox.

Of course this is potentially dangerous; government could theoretically extend ‘protections’ into every area of our lives, stripping us of the freedom to make any decisions. All the more reason to keep government smaller and more accountable to the people! Seat belt and helmet laws don’t come from a desire for government control over individual rights. They are rightly derived from the proper understanding of everyone’s obligation to society to refrain from harming it, by taking unnecessary risks.

This might sound a bit inconsistent coming from the guy who beat the drum for more government-enforced smoking bans, but I actually prefer a government that butts out of many of our decisions. And seatbelt and helmet laws are one area where I think they need to.

Let me start by conceding that failure to wear a seatbelt is foolish. Steve is right — I always wear mine, even for trips around the block, and when I’ve been in accidents, I have been glad for it. Failure to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, on the other hand, is stupid enough to convince me that damage to that particular head might not be that much of a loss. And I fully support such laws for minors, since anything less is tantamount to child endangerment.

Everyone ought to wear helmets and seatbelts because it’s sensible. When traveling at high speeds, I want to wear anything that decreases my chances of death and dismemberment.

But I don’t want my government telling me what I need to do for me, and I certainly don’t want a ticket on those occasions when I either can’t wear a seatbelt, perhaps for medical reasons, or when I decide that it is more to my personal benefit to not wear one.

That determination should still be mine to make in areas such as these where my own well being is the only thing at risk. I personally wear a seatbelt, but there are plenty of things I do that endanger my health. I eat fatty foods. I don’t get as much cardiovascular exercise as I should. Is the government going to start dictating my diet and assigning me PT?

Obviously those things don’t present the immediate threat that an unrestrained accident could, but where do we draw the line? Can we rock climb, sky dive, or surf? For that matter, can we even ride motorcycles at all?

Which side are you on?
View Results


6 Comments to “Clash of the Titans XXXII: Helmet/Seat Belt Laws”

  1. Chase on June 22nd, 2007 1:20 pm

    it will not see to let me vote but if I could I would go with Josh on this one. We can write a 100 laws to keep everyone safe, but unless we teach them what safe looks/feels like it is not going to mater. Most of my friends in New Hampshire (seat belts not required after 18) where them anyway and the one that don’t never did. And when it comes to helmets don’t be stupid and write a law that makes people spend twice the amount of money on helmets then they would normally just so if, by random chance, someone rides with them they can have a helmet for them. Its just not logical. Less laws, more common sense.

  2. Steve on June 23rd, 2007 12:03 am

    I’m having a little trouble with the poll today too; I don’t know why.

    Do some helmet laws require people to buy two helmets at the same time? I think the most defensible part of a helmet law is the one that covers passengers, since they have no ability to prevent an accident and they can fall off much easier.

    A seat belt law demonstrates that we, as a society, value others’ lives enough to require some of the most basic protections when they undertake a dangerous activity (driving). I don’t want to live in a country where my leaders don’t care whether I live or die. That’s a much more frightening specter to me.

  3. Steve Carroll on June 27th, 2007 10:43 am

    I think the fact that your site won’t let me vote on this issue is part of the vast pinko communist plot to control me amd make my decisions for me.

    It is unconstitutional for a bunch of pansy’s in albany to tell me i have to where a seat belt in my car.

    It keeps me safe. How far does this kind of logic go? when i stand on a chair to reach the lard so i can cook my eggs i am making a dangerous decision.

    So the should outlaw standing on chairs. and Lard has transfat which is bad for me so they should out law that (oh wait NYC already has)

    eggs aren’t good for us (at least not according to the latest study) so we should stop eating them mabye they should fine the chickens every time they lay an egg.

    Well you know what Seat belts hurt me i have had my chest ripped open twice for upen heart surgery(probably for eating those illegeal eggs) and that shoulder strap hurts! So i won’t where it. Give me the fine and i will contest it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. I have actually been stopped several but it seems that most cops (who are simply doing their job and don’t write foolish laws) don’t like to give tickets to polite Salvation Army Officers and just let me go.

    But before i go let me say a word about Morotcycle helmets. It is saf to assume that your avarege law maker doesn’t ride. Because unless you are on a dirt bike helmets are more dangerous. They cut down your ability to hear eliminate your periphel vision and cause a general reduction in visual reaction time. So my dear law makers next time you try to think for me learn to think first.

  4. Ethan S. on July 6th, 2008 11:50 am


    You say that “…if you, the reader, don’t wear your seat belt in a car, or a helmet on a motorcycle, you are a moron.” Agreed.

    But then you say that “Injuries and deaths from the failure to wear seat belts and helmets harm society… [by]… the senseless loss of a valuable citizen.”

    So… Morons are at the same time valuable citizens?

    I would also like to point out that our government was originally meant to protect the rights of the individuals within our society. It would be pretty screwy to try and say that our government was originally meant to protect our society from the rights of individuals. Which is the essence of your argument.

  5. Steve on July 7th, 2008 1:44 pm

    Oh, of course a valuable citizen and a moron can be the same person. One stupid decision can be (and here, is) moronic; it doesn’t necessarily taint your entire life. People often act like morons, which doesn’t prevent them from being very productive.

    I never said government was meant to protect society from the rights of individuals. But at the same time, individual rights are not limitless, and one of the main functions of a representative government is to determine — among ourselves — the proper balance between a self-interested world of pure license and a centrally planned life with no autonomy. Both are flawed.

  6. Christian on November 6th, 2008 12:18 am

    $10 billion in health cost for not wearing you seat belt ( UAB magazine)$14.7 billion in heath cost for unprotected sex (CDC.gov 2006 study)

    I have had this same view on seatbelts that is in your blog since they imposed it on us. The best argument I can find and the one I hear people use the most is.

    “ It cost massive amounts in insurance premiums and taxes for people not to wear their seatbelts”

    Well if that is the case if you look at the statistics I provided above…then it cost us more money annually and more taxes annually for people to have unprotected sex than it does for people to not wear their seatbelts.

    When are the state troopers or police going to go the hospitals and start giving people tickets for catching an STD while having unprotected sex?
    (SEX POLICE anyone)

    HEY those darn people not using protection are making my insurance go up!!!! hahaha

    This is how stupid seatbelt laws are!!!!

    I am waiting to get a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt. So I can take it to court just to enter this info into public domain I have the statistics ready as PDFs ready to print

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