What About Seatbelts?

I have no problem with this:

The House Transportation Committee unanimously approved legislation today that would allow anyone age 21 and over to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. . . .

Jimmy Faircloth, executive counsel to Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the governor supports Morris’ effort to repeal the motorcycle helmet law for riders 21 and over because “it involves a known risk.”

Of course, it could lead to more Republican voters. More head injuries would mean more stupid people which would mean more votes for Republicans. Still, even if the results are bad, the idea is good: As long as the harm is only to themselves, let people make up their own minds.

What I don’t get is how you can oppose helmet laws on grounds of personal liberty but support mandatory seat belt laws. Here’s PBJ’s spokesman’s attempt at a distinction:

Jindal said he doesn’t feel the same way about the seatbelt law and supports it as a safety factor.

Faircloth said that’s because motorcyclists realize it’s a risk and take precautions while drivers of cars feel that the vehicle is safe enough to protect them.

Huh? I’m not sure what that means. Whatever it is, though, it should not matter. This isn’t a debate about what is safe or not. Everyone agrees helmets are safer than no helmets. The issue is who gets to decide about wearing one: The state or the person whose head is at risk. Here’s how Jindal says he feels:

In a morning news conference, Jindal said “I recommend that people wear a helmet. If I rode a motorcycle, I would wear a helmet. But I believe people, adults, have a right to make the choice themselves.”

The governor said people like to take risks, such as riding without a helmet, bungee jumping and hang gliding, and “I don’t think it’s the state’s role to tell them they can’t do that.”

Clearly, then, he’s not basing his decision on safety issues. He’s basing it on concerns about personal liberty. Like he said “people, adults, have a right to make the choice for themselves.” So why does he care about liberty for motorcyclists but not for car drivers?

My guess? Repealing the state’s seat belt law would give cops one less pretext for DWB arrests. Or it could just be that the revenue from seat belt tickets is much greater than that from helmet tickets. Either way, that’s a cheap view of liberty.

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