Monday, July 13, 2009
Help Me Howard: Seat Belt Law
A tighter seat belt law is now in effect in Florida, but one man says, I'm an adult and the state shouldn't force me to buckle up. Does he have a legal right to say no? Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser kicks this one into high gear.
WSVN -- Ivan Capeles has been around cars most of his life.
Ivan Capeles: "I've been working on cars off and on since I was 15 years old."
He is comfortable with a car. He is not comfortable with a seat belt.
Ivan Capeles: "They are very uncomfortable across the neck, and I don't particularly like wearing them."
But June 30th, a new state law went into effect giving cops the right to pull you over and hand you a $100 ticket for not wearing a seat belt. The law irritates Ivan.
Ivan Capeles: "I'm a grown man, and I should be able to make my own decisions and not be forced to wear it."
Ivan has two children, and of course they have always buckled up.
Ivan Capeles: "Oh, they wear seat belts all the time. I've taught them any vehicle, whether it be mine, my wife's or any vehicle they get into, to put on their seat belts for safety."
Ivan fully understands that seat belts save lives, but he says he is an adult, and if he does not want to buckle up in his own car, it should be his right.
Ivan Capeles: "It's not hurting anyone else but myself, so if I want to put myself at risk, that's my choice."
The stricter seat belt law was initiated by Irv Slosberg, whose daughter Dori was killed when she was not wearing a seat belt.
Irv Slosberg: "This is about my daughter. I don't want every other family or loved one to have to go through what I've gone through, or my family has gone through. Wear your seat belt, buckle up, it's the law, buddy."
But Ivan argues, if it's about saving lives, then why leave so many other lives at risk.
Ivan Capeles: "Metro buses, jitneys, private school buses, Dade County school buses, Broward County school buses, public school buses should all have seat belts."
Many school buses don't have seat belts, and of course if it's about saving lives, Ivan argues why not ban cigarettes and booze?
Ivan Capeles: "I smoke cigarettes. They haven't banned me from stopping smoking cigarettes."
Leading Ivan to conclude this seat belt law wasn't only about safety, it was to save the insurance companies money and make cities and counties money.
Ivan Capeles: "I think it is just a way to generate revenue."
And leave Ivan with no choice because you can't beat the law.
Ivan Capeles: "Now I wear it. It's the law, so I wear it. Whether I agree with it or not, it's the law."
But, Howard, can the government force you to protect yourself?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes, they can. All the government requires to force you to do something is what the law calls a rational basis. In other words, they have a reason, and it does not always have to be a good reason."
It's estimated that seat belts could save nearly 10,000 lives a year, that 63 percent of the people killed in car accidents are not wearing them. The most likely to go unbuckled are 16- to 25-year-old males, and of course, seat belts do save money.
Howard Finkelstein: "Ivan is right, this law was passed for monetary reasons, and not just to save insurance companies money but to save the taxpayers money because when a person in a car doesn't have insurance and gets injured, you and I pay for their hospital bills."
Ivan has one more suggestion, if seat belts save so many lives, take the millions the new tickets will generate for cities and counties and spend it on more seat belts.
Ivan Capeles: "Then that money should be applied solely for installing seat belts in public transportation. The money should be used for that purpose."
Patrick Fraser: "What are the odds of the law being overturned and Ivan getting to decide whether or not he buckles up? For governments, this law makes them money. Getting them to give up the cash is not going to happen, but at least the stricter seat belt law will save lives, and you can't put a price tag on that."
Feel your rights have unbuckled? Want to belt out your frustrations? Contact us. We'll try to come up with a drive by tooting of your horn.
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