Seat-belt shaming

I realize I’ve talked about this in this space before, but this headline atop a story in the Star Tribune today nonetheless was a cold bucket of water.

His name was Larry A. Kuseske, 71, of Villard, Minn., who probably deserves to be remembered as someone other than “unbelted man.” And he certainly deserves more than the suggestion that the fact he’s dead is his fault. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

But we can think of few other deaths for which this shaming so routinely and consistently appears. In another story in the same paper, a teen near River Falls, Wis., who was thrown to her death, wasn’t wearing a seat belt in a rollover crash. It just didn’t make the headline.

You don’t often see, for example, headlines pointing out that a pedestrian was crossing against the light when struck and killed. Or a bicyclist didn’t have lights or reflectors when she was struck, a motorcyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet, or that a person who died of cancer smoked his entire life.

We get it, of course. People should wear their seat belts. But people shouldn’t necessarily be shamed when they die because they didn’t, though we also realize that plays precisely to the mentality of the internet, which delights in the opportunity for such things.