The ND House of Representatives defeated HB 1335 in floor session today by a vote of 40 to 52. If passed, this law would have made the failure to wear a seat belt by any front seat passenger a primary offense.
I don’t think anyone can reasonably say not wearing a seat belt is a good idea, but that is something that really should be up to the individual to decide. Besides, the real purpose of this bill was to provide law enforcement an opportunity to have one more thing they can use as an excuse to pull someone over, versus a genuine concern for public safety. If you don’t believe that, then why was mandatory use of seat belts only to apply to the front seat occupants? Won’t rear seat occupants also get hurt, die, or hurt or kill others inside the vehicle if they are not buckled up?
Some may feel that law enforcement needs another tool to pull drunks over, and a primary seat belt law was the right tool to give them. I don’t want drunks sharing the road with me either, but even cops testified (as was mentioned by Rep Dan Ruby in floor session) during the committee hearing that there is currently no shortage of legal reasons to pull someone over if they suspect a driver is under the influence.
What was particularly refreshing was the argument that appeared to win the day was — wait for it — freedom. Freedom to be stupid, granted, but freedom nonetheless. That is a great thing to see when the government seemingly grows and encroaches upon us more and more every day under the auspices of being our nanny.
While there were a few great arguments against 1335, none was better than Rep Rick Becker (R) of District 7 in Bismarck:
HB 1335 was defeated today, and for all the right reasons. It’s not needed for one, and other states have only seen a very marginal increase in seat belt usage through passing seat belt primary offense laws. Most importantly, personal freedom (even if it is freedom to be reckless with your own life) still appears to be relatively important to enough members of the House to resist the temptation of further intrusion of government in our personal lives under the excuse of them knowing what is best for us all.