WHAT OTHERS SAY: Secondary offense, primary precaution

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | 3:53 p.m. CDT

Why do we resist being told what to do, even when we know it’s good for us?

Consider seat belts, for example.

Although the evidence is clear that seat belts reduce injuries and fatalities in traffic crashes, more than one fifth of Missouri motorists fail to buckle up.

Psychologists, perhaps, could cite a tendency in human nature to bristle at authority. Maybe the failure to buckle up reflects the American spirit of independence. Or, perhaps it’s based of a false sense of security, as in: “Nothing bad can happen to me.”


None of those justifications, rationalizations or excuses helped the 394 unrestrained people who died in traffic crashes in 2012.

If you think it can’t, or won’t happen to you, you’re risking your future — unnecessarily.

Seat belt use in Missouri remains relatively stagnant, at 79 percent, which is below the national average of 86 percent.

The inertia is not for lack of effort.

You may recall the automotive industry’s effort in the 1980s to install automatic seat belts. The mechanical override of human behavior was intrusive, unpopular and, ultimately, abandoned.

Public safety campaigns by a range of highway safety organizations repeatedly remind drivers and passengers of the importance of buckling up.

Lawmakers pass laws; in Missouri, failure to wear a seat belt remains a secondary offense, which means a ticket can be issued only if a vehicle is pulled over for a separate, primary offense.

And law enforcement officers continue to crack down on unbelted drivers. Agencies recently announced participation in an aggressive, national “Click It or Ticket” campaign through June 2.

The purpose of the campaign isn’t to give motorists a hard time. The intent is to remind people that buckling up is a life-saving act.

Why people won’t take that simple precautions on their own remains a mystery.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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