Saturday, February 11, 2006

Kentucky's proposed primary seatbelt law and why it makes my head hurt.

When I went to the Kentucky Press Association Convention last month I bumped into a dude from the the Advocate Messenger out of Danville, KY. We mainly discussed podcasting and touched on blogs, but I was looking for something to do and jumped onto the Advocate Messenger's web site tonight.

I was glad to see that their editor John Nelson started a blog shortly after the convention. Since I have the memory of a 105 year-old, I can't remember who I talked with from this newspaper, but the editor of the paper and an "ace reporter" there each have blogs.

Anyway, the issue he blogged about today was Kentucky's primary seatbelt law. For those of you who don't know a primary seatbelt law would mean that if a cop saw you driving without your seatbelt on he could ticket you for it. Currently, Kentucky (and most states) have a secondary seatbelt law which means you have to be pulled over for something else before they can issue a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt.

Mr. Nelson discussed the finer points of this law and touched on how a primary seatbelt law starts infringing on personal freedoms. Let's not forget that motorcycle riders over the age of 21 don't have to wear a helmet.

He also talks about how the lawmakers of Kentucky want to save lives, but also want to save money since the state technically invests money to educate its citizens. So they don't want us to die too quickly so they can see a return on that investment.

So it gets down to money and I don't have a problem with that because it's a valid point. Almost 1,000 people died on Kentucky's roads last year.

I posted the next bit of this as a comment on Mr. Nelson's blog which is linked in the title of this post.

The problem I have with this proposed law is it will be extremely hard to enforce.

The visible portion of a seatbelt is probably 18 inches to 24 inches long and about 2.5 inches wide. The lawmakers in Frankfort want cops to look for this when they see any vehicle on the road? By the time a car is pulled over, what if the driver puts their seatbelt on? Is every seatbelt ticket going to have to come with video footage as evidence?

If my shirt matches my seatbelt, should I plan for a delay in my commute to work? For obvious reasons, this law in unenforcible at night as well. What about window tinting?

Wanting to save lives is one thing, but this law is unrealistic when you get down the enforcement aspect of it.

Let's look at something different. According to the Center for Disease Control, smoking attributable deaths in the state of Kentucky in 1999 was almost 8,000.

If you want to get silly about it, making cigarettes other tobacco products illegal in this state would probably save hundreds of millions in healthcare costs. Especially when you consider that 31 percent of Kentuckians smoke.

That being said, why are my tax dollars being spent arguing over a questionably enforcible law when there are better issues to discuss? Like adding a dollar to the cigarette tax.

If almost 1/3 of the population is killing themselves, Kentucky should be squeezing all the money they can out of them. They don't want to lose out on any investment they might have in these people should they experience an untimely smoking related death. And if they quite smoking, healthcare money will be saved yet again.

I'd rather shoot fish in a barrel than try to prove whether or not they had their seatbelts on. But that's just me.
I've had a problem with the cigarette tax in this state for a long, long time. If you ask me we should really add a $5 tax to a pack of cigarettes. And don't even begin to cry about farmers being hurt because Piccu and I helped raise tobacco for 15 years or more and all the tobacco is being grown by giant farmers now. Small farmers who relied solely on tobacco were gone long before cigarette taxes became a hot-button issue.

The more I think about it, the more angry I get about it. The state is arguing this seatbelt law and numbers like $11 million and $98 million are being thrown around as money we are losing because of deaths on Kentucky's roads. I think the $11 million was extra federal cash Kentucky would receive.

Anyway, they are talking about big time money. But the phrase "drop in the bucket" doesn't even do justice to the amount of money that would be saved by taxes on tobacco products.

By the way, having used a Mac since this blog started, I'm loving the web browser Firefox. This is the first post that I've made with it, but the folks at Blogger have yet to support Apple's Safari web browser so I had to take drastic measures and download Firefox.

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