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Edgefield County, South Carolina

June 11, 2005

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EDITORIAL

Do as we say do, not as we do

Editorial
web posted June 11, 2005

Governor Mark Sanford backpedaled on his threat to veto new legislation on seatbelts in the state of South Carolina. By not signing the bill it became law at midnight on June 9, 2005. The law will take effect next year.

On the surface seatbelt laws sound like a good idea. People who wear seatbelts statistically sustain fewer serious injuries in automobile accidents. That is a good thing. However the numbers also show nearly half of all deaths on South Carolina roads occur with seatbelts on.

Part of the threat of veto of the bill by Governor Sanford was that you cannot legislate one’s actions of personal safety. People are free to be as foolish as they want to be and there is little that a law is going to provide as far as stopping such behavior. Passing a law against suicide is a perfect example. The main factor in highway deaths is speed and there are more than enough laws governing that contributory factor yet speeding is one of the main charges filed by the highway patrol.

Edgefield Daily.com spoke with several local residents to see how they felt about the new law. The tally of those we spoke with varied in responses and were evenly divided on the issue, a few more were against the law than were for it. Many cited the reason for opposing the law as a personal choice that government should not be involved with.

Edgefield Daily.com supports the use of seatbelts in vehicles. But conflicting laws by the state bring conflicting opinions as a result.

The previous law stated drivers could not be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt but that the driver could be fined if the stop was initiated by another violation like speeding or an accident. Most people went along with this law even though they felt it was not the place of government to force them to wear, or not wear, seatbelts. Drivers under the age of 18 could be stopped for not having a seatbelt on without needing another reason to stop the vehicle.

In theory that sounded fairly understandable, children are not capable of making life and death choices at a young age. That is where the duplicity of the law began. If you had a child unrestrained in your car you could be pulled over and fined for the violation and could also face possible charges for child endangerment. However every school day our children were placed in situations with no airbags, no seatbelts, and inside a steel unpadded transport called a school bus.

One could argue that a parent has more authority over their own children than the state does in determining if they want to restrain the child. In either event it was obvious the state was telling the citizens to, “do as we say do, not as we do.” As government does it exempted itself from the laws it imposed on its own citizens. That is not good government.

To further frustrate people we spoke with, the issue of motorcycles came up several times. In South Carolina anyone over the age of 21 may operate a motorcycle without wearing protective gear such as a helmet. By far the driver of the motorcycle not wearing a helmet is endangering themselves far more than the driver of a car who is unbelted and equipped with airbags. Yet, the motorcyclist cannot be ticketed but you can. That isn’t good government or good law either.

In reality it seems that such conflicting laws do not really contribute to increased or decreased numbers of traffic fatalities but does create a new influx of cash for counties and the state by adding a new crime that one can be charged with.

Is wearing seatbelts the smart thing to do? Without question, but is it something that should be forced on able-bodied and thinking adults? No. We fully support wearing seatbelts and support laws on children wearing them. But even that conflicts in our minds when the state can issue you a fine or fines for not having your child restrained when the state is the largest offender of child restraint laws every day of the school year.

We fully believe that laws should make good common sense and apply to everyone, including the public school system and the state. Otherwise you are not leading by example but wielding power in the most injudicious way.




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