Editorial: Pa. has no need to change seatbelt policy

By Pitt News Staff

‘ ‘ ‘ You don’t have to drive far to see a sign that says, ‘Buckle up it’s the law.’ In… ‘ ‘ ‘ You don’t have to drive far to see a sign that says, ‘Buckle up it’s the law.’ In Pennsylvania, drivers are ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt only after they’re pulled over for a separate offense. But Pennsylvania is among 15 states that are considering making seatbelt violations a primary enforcement law. In other words, police would have the authority to ticket drivers solely for declining to wear a seatbelt. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery, is sponsoring a proposal to elevate seatbelt enforcement to the primary enforcement level, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Should Pennsylvania adopt this policy before July, the state would be eligible to receive millions from the federal government. Although it’s not clear how much money Pennsylvania would get, the state could only spend the additional funds on highway-related projects. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ There’s no question that seatbelts reduce the mortality rates of car accidents. To put it plainly, seatbelts save lives. Due to their effectiveness, it might seem natural that enforcement of their use should be more strictly regulated. But this latest proposal aims at enforcement for the wrong reason. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Given the downtrodden state of the current economy, enacting a law that would provide surefire funding for the state ‘mdash; even if the state can only use it on roadways ‘mdash; must appear attractive to legislators and state officials. But monetary motivation might well be the main incentive behind this proposal, and passing new laws in order to reap their financial benefits is both unethical and dishonest. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ In addition to the money the state would receive from the federal government, more tickets issued would mean more money generated from penalty fees. While not having a seatbelt on could prompt the initial pullover by police, other traffic violations could easily be tacked on. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Police routinely patrol city streets and state highways to keep a range of traffic violations in check ‘mdash; from speeding to tailgating to aggressive driving. To properly enforce an obligatory seatbelt law, patrols might not need to increase their manpower, yet stopping drivers for declining to wear a seatbelt would still take up an officer’s time. The officer could have used the time and effort it takes to issue a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt to pull over drivers for more potentially dangerous violations like speeding. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Should a driver or passenger neglect to wear a seatbelt, he puts himself at risk for injury. Although those not buckled in could collide with other passengers during more severe car crashes, the risk of injury that they pose is largely personal. Reckless driving, however, unquestionably subjects other motorists and pedestrians to danger beyond their control. Therefore, the state should not hamper police with enforcing a potentially less damaging traffic violation. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The actual enforcement of this policy would only be muddled by disputes arising between accused violators and the police. It’s difficult to prove that you weren’t speeding, and regarding seatbelt wear, the officer can only fall back on his word. The police can’t rely on the aid of their trusty radar guns in seatbelt scenarios. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Seatbelts should always be worn, but it’s best to keep the policy on their enforcement as is. The only real gain from upping the enforcement policy would be a boost in the state’s financing.