If I were a betting man I’d say I’d be writing a check to the City of Boca Raton by Friday.
An alert friend of mine, who obviously has my best interests in mind, sent me a text message this morning directing me to the Boca Raton Police Department’s Facebook page where they posted information about the “Click it or Ticket” seatbelt enforcement program that gets underway today.
According to the post, “At 6:00 p.m. on May 18th, Boca Raton Police Services Department will join law enforcement agencies across the Eastern United States in mobilizing the Click It or Ticket (CIOT) “Border to Border” Operation. Law enforcement agencies will join forces to provide increased seat belt enforcement at State borders, sending a zero tolerance message to the public: driving or riding unbuckled will result in a ticket, no matter what State.”
Those who ride with me know that I don’t wear a seatbelt. In fact, I have one of those $10 devices I picked up that you stick into your seatbelt thingie to stop the car from beeping every millisecond to remind you to fasten your safety belt.
Call me a rebel. Call me foolish. Call me an unsafe driver. Just don’t call me to remind me to buckle up.
Now before you go on about the importance of bucking up when behind the wheel, stop right there. I get it. I’ve heard every reason under the sun why I should buckle up. I’ve also heard plenty from those on my side of the issue.
I don’t buckle up for a few reasons. The first being that it’s just not comfortable. I don’t like the feeling of being strapped against the drivers seat while stiff nylon rubs against my neck and shoulder. I’m sure I wouldn’t like the sensation of being thrown through the windshield in a collision either, but that’s the chance I’m willing to take.
The second is that using a seat belt is not automatically going to be a life-saver. Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45%, and risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50%. Those are not big enough numbers to convince me to wear one.
The third reason is perhaps the most controversial – “because it’s the law.” Here in Florida, a motorcyclist can take to the streets without wearing a helmet and travel I-95 weaving in and out of lanes over 100mph putting themselves and other drivers at serious risk, but they don’t have to wear a helmet.
When seatbelt use became a primary offense in Florida (meaning you can be pulled over and ticketed for not wearing a belt as opposed to having to be pulled over for some other offense first), I was pulled over by a Highland Beach Police Officer every morning for five days straight during my commute to work.
The officer, who is no longer with the department, pulled me over the first time and issued a warning then waited for me to buckle up before letting me go on my way. The next morning, he pulled me over again…. and the next morning again…
Each time I would tell him, “you can pull me over every day and give me a ticket each time, I’m not going to wear my seatbelt.” I never did get a ticket, but he would issue me a verbal warning and would not let me put my car in drive without being buckled in. “I don’t care if you take your seat belt off when you pull away, but put it on now,” he would say.
He finally gave up on me and once the daily stops, stopped, I would give him a friendly wave as I passed him parked alongside the road waiting for the next chicken to pluck.
The moral of the story is this. I appreciate the campaigns that are there to bring awareness to the fact that seatbelts may reduce the severity of an injury you may receive in a car crash. I don’t appreciate the fact that my choice to not wear one can lead to me being pulled over and ticketed. The action I’m taking is not putting other drivers at risk or making me a menace on the road.
Going back to the motorcycle helmet analogy…. sure, when you’re thrown from a motorcycle at high speed, chances are that helmet which you’re not required to wear isn’t going to help much. My choice to wear or not wear a seat belt may not help me much in a crash either, so don’t punish me for refusing to wear one.