The seat belt issue

Allen Kelling won’t be around to hear this year’s legislative debate over whether you should be required to wear seat belts. The 19-year-old Braham, Minn., man was killed Friday night when his car was broadsided at the intersection of Hwys. 107 and 70, the Star Tribune reported in the section of the paper that contains several similar incidents day after day after day. All are sad stories of, in many cases, senseless deaths. Allen was not wearing a seat belt, according to the newspaper. A passenger in Kelling’s car and the person driving the other car were not seriously hurt. They were wearing seat belts.

An annual bill that would give police the power to stop you for not wearing a seat belt is one of the first initiatives of some lawmakers. It would cost the driver $100 for not wearing a seat belt and the driver would get fined $75 more for each passenger not buckled in.

The debate will offer nothing new. Proponents will point to a declining death toll on the state’s highways as evidence why it’s needed. Opponents, backed by talk show hosts who have wrung out every last shred of material from the Franken-Coleman recount, will claim this is the line in the sand Minnesotans must draw between freedom and fascism. It’s bad enough we’re already required to use our turn signals.

Three years ago, Republicans killed the bill by sending it to a committee and not giving it a hearing. Two years ago, DFLers in the Senate ganged up on it. Last year it was the House’s turn and even some of the more — and now retired — liberal lawmakers said no. Turning the issue on its head as only the Minnesota legislator can, some of the most conservative Republicans voted for it.

I won’t bother wading into that end of the debate. I am interested in this aspect of the issue: Forgetting the issue of whether it is isn’t or isn’t the law to wear your seat belt, why don’t you? Is it too hard? Uncomfortable?