Seat Belt Laws
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by Luke Setzer

[Author’s Note: These two letters were mailed in early March to two publications in response to their articles supporting mandatory seat belt laws. The two publications were the bimonthly magazine of the American Automobile Association (AAA) and a monthly local employer newsletter called THE SIREN. I do not know yet if either will get published in its targeted periodical, but each certainly bears relevance to this column. As you will see, these people really punched my hot buttons.]

Dear AAA,

The March-April 1998 issue of GOING PLACES contained a legislative report on page 39 by Diane Weiss, MPA. I congratulate AAA for its commendable efforts to thwart automated ticketing, highway fund raids, and other absurdities. Nevertheless, you continue to disappoint me with your condescending, paternalistic support of seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws. These laws purport to protect individuals from their own stupidity. Your ongoing attempts to mandate through law the use of seat belts and motorcycle helmets begs a simple question: Does AAA believe in the concept of individual self-ownership?

Society should step out of the way and allow people who wish to risk their own lives by not wearing seat belts or motorcycle helmets to do so. Every individual owns his own life, and has no moral right to lay claim to any part of any other individual’s life. The problem with loss of health and life would be individual problems and not "social" problems if not for the Marxist-style collectivism that mars our nation today. Public hospitals, heavily regulated insurance industries, and other government meddlings have totally bollixed the system.

I understand that AAA has concern about increased insurance payouts (and thus premiums) due to the increase in injury and death from lack of self-protection. I suggest that AAA should lobby for alterations in insurance and tort law that would decrease benefit payouts to those who fail to use such protections. In other words, a motorcyclist injured while not wearing a helmet would receive substantially less in damage awards than a motorcyclist who did wear a helmet. The same would hold true for those who refused to wear seat belts and sustained much greater injuries as a result.

I strongly recommend that AAA adopt a libertarian approach to its lobbying efforts. If not for the multitude of positive benefits AAA offers, I would take my business elsewhere. If I ever find a libertarian-leaning auto club, though, I likely will switch. I encourage other readers to do the same.

To the SIREN team,

I just finished reading the latest issue of THE SIREN. Of particular interest was the "Conversation Corner", which told the tragic story of the nurse who lost her young son to his own stupidity.

You encouraged readers at the end of the column to "Become an advocate for stronger enforcement of the seat belt laws in your area or state. We need to do all that we can to prevent this tragedy from happening to another mother or father."

Well, there comes a time in every person's life when he must accept responsibility for his own well-being. Laws or no laws, the nurse did all she possibly could to help her son learn to care for himself while in an automobile. He stupidly ignored her well-informed warnings, and he paid the price.

I personally oppose all laws that "protect" people from themselves. I favor a much more market-oriented approach to this whole issue. I suggest advocating reforms in insurance and tort laws that would severely curtail or eliminate financial rewards to those who are injured while failing to take proper safety precautions. These idiots get exactly what they deserve.

Call me a "social Darwinist", but the problem is not a lack of laws, but an overabundance of them. People have come to depend so much upon the "Nanny State" that they no longer feel the need to educate themselves on injury prevention. From seat belt laws to mandated pool fences, we see the effects of this attitude everywhere. Furthermore, regulatory bureaucrats love to transform normal daily tragedies into "public problems" so that they can generate regulations to justify their own jobs and look good at the same time.

The real problem with these issues becoming "social costs" is tax-funded health care via public hospitals, Medicare, Medicaid, mandated employer-provided health insurance, and other socialist doctrines. A pure, laissez-faire approach to risk management would transform these "social problems" into simple clusters of individual problems to be solved by self-responsibility and free markets. Through these methods, as Ayn Rand said, "an end would be put to the infamy of paying with one person's life for the errors [or accidents] of another."

Well, I have probably offered you enough "shock value" for now. If you want more, read Harry Browne's excellent book Why Government Doesn't Work or Ayn Rand's essays in The Virtue of Selfishness. For more on Rand's philosophy of life, visit my web site at

AAA's Defense of Seat Belt Laws
Letter-Writing Campaign to AAA
Rebuttal of AAA's Defense


This page was last updated 07/02/00 01:51 PM