The Instigator
KevinL75
Pro (for)
Losing
21 Points
The Contender
Ross
Con (against)
Winning
24 Points

When Concerning Adults, State Legislatures Should Repeal Mandatory Seatbelt Laws

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/13/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,735 times Debate No: 366
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (12)
Votes (15)

 

KevinL75

Pro

Currently, 49 states have some sort of mandatory seatbelt law on the books affecting adults (the one exception being New Hampshire.) I propose that the state legislature of each of these 49 states should repeal their mandatory seatbelt laws as they apply to adults. Children, I believe, are in a separate category, because they are not legally held responsible for their own actions the way adults are.

I believe that laws in the United States regarding what a citizen can and cannot do should be grounded in the concepts of individual freedom, and abide by the harm principle. Individual freedom includes the freedom to be stupid. If someone wishes to drive without a seatbelt on, gets into a car crash and dies, it was that person's right to make that decision.

I have not seen any evidence that suggests not wearing a seatbelt would harm anyone but the individual choosing not to wear it, so repealing mandatory seatbelt laws would not violate the harm principle. It seems to be generally accepted in society that one is entitled to engage in risky behavior in many arenas - why not while driving?
Ross

Con

I live in Maine. In Maine, seat-belts are required for all individuals in a moving vehicle and the driver is responsible for those individuals.

I agree that no individuals rights should be impeded upon without proper cause, usually that cause being the stability of society.

In this case, however, I will simply iterate why our state has adopted the law. Within our state, statistics have shown that car accidents that take place without seat-belts being worn result in far larger medical bills than those that involve individuals wearing their seat-belts. These medical bills, due to lack of insurance or otherwise, are paid for with taxpayer money. Therefore, by requiring seat-belts for all individuals, we are saving tax-payer money and keeping individuals from paying out of pocket so someone else can be "stupid."
Debate Round No. 1
KevinL75

Pro

I can see the merits of the argument that seatbelt laws save taxpayers money, but I believe that principle is being selectively applied in this case. Let's compare driving without a seatbelt to other risky behaviors.

Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol have both been linked to long-term health risks, which will result in hospital stays and medical bills. Assuming that a smoker or a drinker is just as likely to not have health insurance as a non-seatbelted driver, why shouldn't the state of Maine (or the United States) make a move to ban cigarettes and alcohol?

Using an example involving vehicles, accidents are certainly more likely to happens when drivers are driving in adverse weather conditions - yet it's still legal to drive (and with the same speed limits as a sunny day) in a blizzard. Surely accidents involving very bad weather accumulate hospital bills for the uninsured.

There is a very long list of risky behaviors that society tolerates that would likely include the same prevalence of uninsured individuals. If the state of Maine, or any other state, is truly concerned with lessening the burden on taxpayers, it should outlaw cigarettes, alcohol, driving in bad weather, having promiscuous unprotected sex, wearing metal in a thunderstorm, and many other activities.

Society seems to consider wearing a seatbelt to be different from any of those things, and I've never been able to pin down why - I think it's a double standard.
Ross

Con

All of your listed "risky behaviors" besides maybe the tin-hat in the storm is regulated by the state. Not to mention, you may not be necessarily convincing anyone that seat-belt laws should be taken away, but smoking, drinking and driving in bad weather should all be illegal. The reason why these are not outlawed is simply because they have not proven to be a substantial tax burden on separate individuals. The state of Maine found that car accidents that involved non-seat-belt wearers created a substantially higher tax burden and was easily prevented by enforcing a seat-belt requirement.
Debate Round No. 2
KevinL75

Pro

I certainly see the flaws in the logic of my last argument, but I do want to draw a line between the state regulating something and outlawing it entirely. Let's just compare the freedom to smoke cigarettes to the freedom to not wear a seatbelt:

Government does implement taxes on cigarettes, perhaps to discourage citizens from smoking, perhaps to generate revenue on an extremely popular product. The government also regulates the ways in which tobacco companies can advertise. However, it stops (and has always stopped) well before instituting a moratorium on their use, despite what has to now be considered a consensus on the health risks of smoking.

I don't deny that Maine has come up with data suggesting that drivers who don't wear seatbelts impose a burden to taxpayers in the event that they do not have insurance. I do, however, deny that if such a study were conducted examining unpaid medical bills of patients suffering from smoking-related illnesses, they would not find comparable or even more significant costs to taxpayers.

In 2000, 23.8% of Maine residents self-reported as smokers (http://encarta.msn.com....) I was not able to find similar statistics on drivers who choose not to wear a seatbelt in Maine, but I personally doubt it would be higher than (or even equal to) 23.8%

Assuming both circumstances (smoking and not wearing a seatbelt) can lead to serious medical problems that rack up substantial bills (which I think is a safe assumption,) and that non-seatbelt-wearers aren't disproportionately more likely to be uninsured than smokers (also a reasonable assumption I think,) why is it that lawmakers in Maine - the same lawmakers supporting seatbelt legislation - have come out for a smoking ban?

I can certainly see the logic in regulating seat belts to look out for taxpayers - I just don't think it's the real motivation behind seat belt laws. I believe the real motivation for the majority of politicians (and citizens) is "it saves lives!"
Ross

Con

Cigarettes are still legal for many reasons. Firstly, they are addictive. To demand that app. 23 percent of an entire state be forced to give up an addiction as strong as cigarettes would be foolish. The government is aware, however, that it is capable of imposing "sin tax" on such a product and therefore offer more reason not to smoke while simultaneously creating revenue.
Seat-belts on the other hand have no addictive aftereffect whether you wear them or not. They simply decrease the risk of getting injured and thus decrease the risk that the vast majority of the people will have to pay for your stupidity.

Secondly, the people responsible for forging such a law are legislatures. What drives legislatures more than any other force is votes. Votes come from the people. If app. 23 percent of the voters are smokers-thats an easy 23 percent of the vote they can go expect to go without in the next election if they support a ban on cigarettes. Not to mention the people who will refuse to vote for a representative who believes they ought to be telling people whether they can smoke or not. So legislatures really have little motivation to ban smoking altogether.
Seat-belts however will not cause a huge uproar. Very few people avoid wearing a seat-belt and probably would if they remembered it and so very few people are going to be upset by a law requiring seat-belts.

Finally, if we look in the past at prohibition, we find that banning an extremely popular vice only results in a huge rise in crime and corruption. And alcohol isn't even as addictive as cigarettes.

So you can see why cigarettes and seat-belts are two very different entities.
Debate Round No. 3
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by impactyourworld89 9 years ago
impactyourworld89
I agree with Kevin on the concept of it. To quote Ronald Reagan, "I do not believe in a government that protects us from ourselves". I have debated this topic before and the only major problem I had coming against me, is that where I'm from (Texas) car insurance is mandatory, so the rates would skyrocket. So the first step in this, is making insurance optional, otherwise it doesn't help anyone.
Posted by iluvdb8 9 years ago
iluvdb8
good debate, but kinda wierd topic, but, you guys did work with it, and it was very interesting to read
Posted by Klashbash 9 years ago
Klashbash
You chose to cherry-pick my argument. I unmistakably stated the ethical question to be asked is if the action poses a significant risk to others. This would be infringing upon someone else's rights. Does murder constitute as infringing upon someone else's rights? By golly I think it does!

How does someone not wearing a seatbelt infringe on the rights of others? No evidence has been provided to back up such a claim. Laws that protect us from ourselves are an act of tyranny. The Declaration of Independence says we have the inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This means I have a right to govern my own body so long as I don't infringe on someone else's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Posted by vicious_wit 9 years ago
vicious_wit
With that logic, any law that makes somebody unhappy is a breach of our civil liberties.

A serial killer would say that anti-murder laws make him unhappy, so he shouldn't have to obey them.

Etc...

That seems like a bad idea, allowing people to decide which laws they are "okay" with.
Posted by Klashbash 9 years ago
Klashbash
I'm with KevinL75 in wanting evidence provided that not wearing a seatbelt poses a significant risk to others. Otherwise seatbelt laws are an infringement on our civil liberties. The Declaration of Independence declares our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What if my happiness is not wearing a seatbelt?

"The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits." ~ Thomas Jefferson to M. L'Hommande, 1787.
Posted by KevinL75 9 years ago
KevinL75
I'd be willing to bet a significant sum of money that no one can find a news report documenting someone without a seatbelt flying out of a car and injuring someone.
Posted by The_Silent_Consensus 9 years ago
The_Silent_Consensus
I only support seatbelt laws because of the potential for those not wearing seatbelts to fly out of the car and injure or kill someone else, and the potential to injure or kill someone else wearing a seatbelt in the car
Posted by KevinL75 9 years ago
KevinL75
You said: "but the point of the government is to look out for it's people"

I actually don't fully agree with that. I think government's job is to protect citizens from other citizens, and from government itself - not from themselves.

But it's not something I'm going to start a protest over or anything, hehe, it's just something interesting to think about :D
Posted by la_bella_vita 9 years ago
la_bella_vita
kevin - while i don't agree with your position, i was impressed with the logical way that you defended your stance. seatbelt laws are not something i would have thought to debate about but after reading what you wrote i do see the argument there.

i think that there are some points that could have been touched upon a little bit more by the CON. obviously it would be easy to just say that the government shouldn't pass any laws on any behavior that might cause us to hurt ourselves, but the point of the government is to look out for it's people. and let's be honest, there are a LOT of really stupid people out there, that make stupid decisions every day. why do we have disposable coffee cups that say CAUTION: HOT BEVERAGE? because some people who spilled hot coffee (they they ordered) on themselves were angry because they weren't warned properly.
so while it may be ridiculous, it seems (unfortunately) that some people need these kind of laws to help them make better decisions.

basically, if you really don't want to wear a seatbelt, you're not going to, even if a law and a fine is stopping you. there's your choice.
Posted by KevinL75 9 years ago
KevinL75
Kels, why do you assume it bothers me? I do think the government shouldn't be in the business of passing paternalistic laws, but not to the point that I would write any letters about it. Besides, I thought the whole point of debate was to find the best logical argument for whatever side you're representing - not necessarily to agree with everything you're supporting or defending.
15 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
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