Why I don’t want to wear a seat belt

What I am questioning is the state’s right to enforce this precaution with monetary penalties simply because it is (popularly presumed to be) ‘good for us’. Should my relationships with myself and the intensity of my self-preservative spirit ever translate into the government’s finances?

Sachal Afraz July 07, 2010


Should the state have the right to fine a person for not taking care of himself? Islamabad police commonly fine drivers in monetary terms for a variety of offences. I understand penalising practices that distract the driver. Talking on the phone, texting, and watching videos on LCD monitors are all activities that demand the driver’s attention and thus increase the probability of an accident.

A motorist performing stunts also runs the risk of losing control and crashing into someone. These activities are a threat to other people in the society and should thus be fined. But, what of the personal precaution of wearing seat belts?  My chances of having an accident are not increased if I do not wear my seat belt.

In fact, John Adams, risk expert and emeritus professor of geography at University College London studied data from  25 years and found that mandating the use of seat belts in 18 countries resulted in either no change or a net increase in road accident deaths. He suggests that the sense of security created by seat belts adversely affects driving behavior.

However, I should not be misunderstood as arguing against the seat belt, I realise that it is a brilliant invention that increases the chances of surviving an accident.

What I am questioning is the state’s right to enforce this precaution with monetary penalties simply because it is (popularly presumed to be) ‘good for us’. Should my relationships with myself and the intensity of my self-preservative spirit ever translate into the government’s finances?

Traffic wardens could just stop me and remind me to fasten my seat belt, after all it seems to work just fine for airline crew. The most common contention I receive on this proposition, is that the financial deterrent is necessary to make people ‘learn’.

So the essential point being made here is that our nation is too immature to know what is best for them. And that an enforcing body is required to make people conform and behave in their own best interest (as judged by the governing body). I will not attempt to argue for the maturity of our people, but I will leave you with a question. Is this not exactly the same argument that is used to justify dictatorship on our ‘immature’ people?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2010.

WRITTEN BY:
Sachal Afraz A graduate from the Lahore University of Management Sciences currently pursuing post-graduate studies at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (34)

Malik Rashid | 10 years ago | Reply Dear Author There is a discrepancy in your understanding of the law. Driving is not a right, it is a privilege allowed through a driving license. It is only after successfully passing a test that you are allowed to share roads with other motorists. Stunt-driving on private property is covered by other set of rules for insurance and liability. The study that looks at number of accidents does not compare fatal accidents when seat-belt laws were not in effect. Other discretion of speeding or risky-manoeuvrings on public roads are also covered under highway rules. This license of yours is renewable periodically and government must suspend or cancel license of those who fail to obey rules while sharing the road. When you reach the age where your reflexes become questionable, authorities check you every year before renewing your license. Hope my explanation does not offend you. Peace.
Jawad | 10 years ago | Reply Professor Adams taught me Risk Management at UCL and I assure you that he is an authority on the subject. A experimental test trial conducted by Fredrick M. Streffa and E.Scott Geller found that drivers increased speed and recklessness when using the seat belt. The stated issue has been extensively researched on, and is novel only to some visitors of this website.
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