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It's time for a belting

May 23, 2012

By Dee Grenert, Staff Writer

The ancient fax machine in the office rang, coughed, sputtered, groaned, whined, and finally churned out a most urgent news release, a duplicate of one received just days earlier.
This information sent from two local law enforcement agencies originated from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. It sent a stern warning and promised to show no mercy to a most insidious brand of scofflaw, punctuating the opening sentence with the word, “beware.”
What sinister group is the target of this promised crackdown? Murderers? Rapists? Meth manufacturers? Crack dealers? Horse thieves? Telephone solicitors?
Oh no, these havoc-wreaking renegades far outpace the aforementioned in sheer criminality and eeeeevil. I’ll quote that opening line for full effect.
“Motorists who refuse to wear their seat belts – beware.”
Why beware? The conclusion of the release spells out the consequences in no uncertain terms.
“‘Special patrols will take place around the clock, and if law enforcement finds you on the road unbuckled at any time, you can expect to get a ticket. No excuses and no exceptions.’”
So there you go. Another Click It or Ticket campaign. All you horrible sons and daughters of perdition who still, after all these years, slide behind the wheel without tethering yourself to your seat, shame, shame, shame. Way to thumb your anarchist noses at all that makes America great. Why, you probably eat fuzzy little kittens, and hate apple pie and baseball.
Before those of you do-gooders work yourself into a froth about recklessness and the like, I nearly always wear my seat belt; the dang car dings at me if I don’t.
Heck, I acknowledge the wisdom of buckling up, even though Bo and Luke Duke zipped around the dirt roads of Hazzard County sans restraint. In fact, I think Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane’s hound, Flash, was the only one who regularly buckled up for safety in Hazzard County.
The Dukes of Hazzard notwithstanding, I think seat-belt usage, though a responsible act falls under the category of “my body, my choice.” I despise laws instituted to protect me from myself. An unbelted driver poses no threat to anyone but him or herself. Nobody starts a brawl or embarks upon a drug-induced rampage because he neglected to use his seat belt. And thanks to effective education efforts, just about everyone understands the risks of not buckling up.
As much as I might like to fine people for foolishness, like watching soccer, rooting for the White Sox, or driving a Chevy Volt, I value a person’s freedom to make their own choices without a visit from the police. I want our very fine officers throughout the community, state, and country free to pursue the real bad guys who threaten public safety, not some old guy who remembers cars without seat belts and still happens to tool around unbelted in his trusty old pickup.
The press release cites a seat-belt usage rate of 93.2 percent – as my boss said, “that’s an A” – in the state of Indiana. But, it also notes “there remain a significant number of drivers who are at an increased risk of death or injury because they still fail to buckle up on a regular basis.”
Increased risk of death? I consulted a pair of medical professionals – my mom and sister, registered nurses each – and both confirmed that the risk of death for each human – seat belted or not – is 100 percent. Or as Waylon Jennings, as part of the Old Dogs with Bobby Bare, Jerry Reed, and Mel Tillis, sang, “put seat belts in your car, you’re still gonna die.” To prove the point of the song, “Still Gonna Die” Waylon and Jerry, unfortunately, are both dead, neither because of lack of seat belts.
Anyway, I’ll wear my seat belt much, much more often than not. Just please don’t reach for my wallet on the rare occasion I don’t.

Dee Grenert is editorial assistant and sports writer for the Pilot News Group.

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