Do Mandatory Seat Belt Laws Violate Individual Rights?
Previously published on March 14, 2008
Seatbelt laws exist because those who wear seatbelts are statistically more likely to escape a car crash versus those who do not; this is not to say that seatbelts do not trap some passengers in the wreckage of a car as this certainly does happen. The purpose of seatbelt laws is to guarantee a majority of people who are in car crashes will survive as those who wear seatbelts tend to be the majority to survive in the majority of car crashes. On the other hand, it is reasonable to question whether or not government has the Constitutional authority to require individuals to wear seatbelts. The question lies in whether or not legislators can dictate a person's behavior and if such laws violate an individual's rights.
The Constitution guarantees a myriad of enumerated rights and freedoms while it also puts forth the idea that there exist rights that are not listed in the document. There is no right to specifically drive nor is there a right that prevents government from forcing its citizens to engage in healthy behavior; however, legislation, such as the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees that all laws must be equally and fairly applied to all citizens unless a person goes through due process, at which time, an individual's rights may be narrowly truncated, seeks to provide the individual with as many rights as possible.
Furthermore, the intent of the Constitution is to guarantee the Government limits it interference in the decisions of lower government and its citizens; however, the Constitution certainly does not tie the hands of the Government from acting when necessary. Even the rights guaranteed to the people by the Constitution are not absolute, and so, under specific circumstances, government has the authority and duty to act against a person's personal freedoms. Moreover, when there is a compelling state interest to intervene in an individual's behavior, the government not only has the ability to act, but the Law requires that it does. Ensuring public safety is one such interest that includes road maintenance and regulation of personal driving behavior.
Albeit one individual dying in a car crash because they failed to use a seatbelt may not overtly endanger the public, the resources required to deal with a sever car crash involving someone who survives being thrown out of a car does burdens emergency services and the medical system while it also opens up room for a lawsuit against the government for wrongful death as it not requiring seatbelt use could be a violation of its duty to protect its citizens. Above all, not requiring seatbelt encourages the disuse of seatbelt and this will lead to greater fatalities and more sever impairments resulting from automobile accidents; therefore, government has the right to require the use of seatbelts.