13 Responses to Car insurance not required – Aug 20, 2008

  1. Mike Honcho says:

    Neal, I would agree that me not wearing my seat belt all the time does not make me the smartest person in the world…but I don’t think it means I’m suicidal or a complete idiot. I’d say it’s probably careless, but it is my choice. This is a money grab by the state, pure and simple.

    Now, before you start, I’m not about to start equating driving sans a seat belt to other activities, I’m just comparing actions on the basis of their, as you might say, idiocy.

    Riding a bicycle with no helmet is not wise, but it’s legal.
    Riding in the back of a pick-up truck is not wise, but it’s legal.
    Eating meat that has not been fully cooked is not wise, but it’s legal.
    Smoking cigarettes is not wise, but it’s legal.
    Drinking alcohol in excess is not wise, but it’s legal (as long as you don’t drive afterward).

    Now, I do think there are appropriate situations in which one regulates personal choice, and those situations are when the choice begins to negatively affect others around them who have not made that same choice, or who disagree with the choice.

    I’m not going to get into insurance premiums either. I think it would be a pretty safe bet that people’s insurance premiums have a lot more to do with the fat cat health care industry’s high prices than me not wearing my seat belt.

  2. neal says:


    Can you explain to me how making something that is already a secondary offense into a primary offense somehow makes it more of a freedom infringement? I think I would understand the freedom argument more if it weren’t already illegal. There’s no degree of buckling or strapping that would be changed.

    And there are already plenty of laws in place for drivers’ safety that limit your supposed “freedom” — use of headlights, speed limits, turn signals, passing lanes, etc. In what world do you think that you have freedom to do what you want the moment you enter a roadway?

    You have apparently climbed inside Sen. Harms’ brain and decided that he’s lying when he declares his motivation (citing seat belt use increases 10 to 14 percent when laws are changed from secondary to primary), and for that detective work, I congratulate you. So let’s just pretend you’re right, and this is all about the money —

    This $7.4 million in federal highway funding would be given to Neb. for changing the laws would ease the strain on the roads budget that depends on gas taxes and this year depended on the cash reserve. Do you have a suggestion on another way to obtain this roads funding? I’m sure you probably aren’t on board for increased gas taxes.

    Maybe the state could offer Chest and Lap Freedom Fighter permits, in which those who value their freedom so much that they don’t want to wear seatbelts could purchase a license from the state, priced to where that $7.4 million shortfall would be covered. You could slap that sticker to the inside of your windshield, and then all of us — with or without belts — can enjoy our roads, and those who choose can decorate the well-maintained pavement with the contents of their skulls.

  3. Mike Honcho says:

    First of all Neal, I don’t understand the confrontational nature of your post, but I’ll try to respond as kindly as possible.

    The driver’s safety laws you mention don’t only ensure safety for the driver, but for all motorists on the road. I thought I made it clear that I am in agreement with laws that limit personal freedom when those laws also protect others. Using my seat belt protects only me…not anyone else. I support laws that protect the individual from the rest of society…not from themselves.

    Making the seat belt law a primary offense as opposed to a secondary offense increases the level of infringement on freedom by allowing law enforcement to stop drivers solely because they aren’t wearing their seat belt. I could be driving down the interstate at exactly 75 mph, signaling my lane changes, maintaining safe following distances, and driving defensively while minimizing distractions…and still be pulled over. Imagine this…an officer sitting in the median lets a few people fly by at 78-79 mph because, hey, it’s no big deal, right? But he sees a driver going 75 mph without his seat belt, and cites him, even though he’s driving more safely than the rest of the drivers on the road. Does it make sense to you that a safe driver gets a ticket, while more dangerous drivers go free?

    This is why I support maintaining the seat belt law as a secondary offense. Drivers who are putting themselves and others at risk by violating the rules of the road can be punished more severely, while those who drive safely to ensure their own safety and the safety of those around them are not punished.

    On top of all this, I have serious doubts as to our law enforcement personnel’s ability and desire to enforce such a law. Judging by the blatant speeding in Lincoln and Omaha, as well as the interstate in between…the police either already have their hands full, or they don’t care.

    Finally, the funding issue. Yes, it would be nice to have that $7.4 million in roads funding. However, I can’t help but wonder about the integrity of the DOR when they constantly need more money, even though the number of miles driven by Nebraskans seems to be declining due to gas prices. Shouldn’t fewer miles mean less maintenance and building? It’s funny to think about the widening of the interstate between Lincoln and Omaha. Recently, public concern over global warming has increased greatly, as you are well aware. I’m not getting into the global warming debate, but I will say that, if it is a concern, why are we building our roads to accommodate MORE cars? It seems to me that it just encourages more people driving by themselves. If they’re going to add a 3rd lane, it should be a carpool lane. Crap…I got off track.

    I can’t help but think that a little fat can’t be trimmed throughout the state’s various offices to make up for such funding. I guess if this money is TRULY needed, and I mean TRULY, then so be it. I don’t know that this is the beginning of a slippery slope, but I can’t help but believe that laws regulating cell phone use and other driver distractions won’t be too far down the road, so to speak.

  4. neal says:

    But Mike, all you’ve done in your highway speeding scenario is just create a straw man argument that’s more about a lack of trust and accountability in highway patrol than it is about laws or freedoms. It’s not fair or logical to make one about the other. And I’m sure you know that the decline in driving is a relatively new phenomenon, so to pretend it would somehow undo years of needed road maintenance is absurd. And a cell phone use law would probably fit in with the laws you agree with, wouldn’t it (as it’s also about protecting others on the road)?

    You’re reaching all over the place with this “People worry about global warming, so why are we widening highways” thing, since, last I checked, nobody consulted the Sierra Club before making decisions about Nebraska roads. However, I would be totally onboard with the idea of making the new left lane a carpool lane, at least during certain hours. I think that’s a really good idea — no sarcasm.

    I guess if there was anything confrontational about my response, it’s because you’re basically accusing Sen. Harms of being a liar. I quote, “This is a money grab by the state, pure and simple.” There’s quite simply a lot more to it than that, and I’ve learned that if you’re going to call someone a liar, expect something confrontational in return.

  5. Ray Conrad says:

    Have you read about the hands free law for cell communication in California? It is a primary offense and coming soon to a nation near you.

  6. Mike Honcho says:

    I know I got off track, that’s why I said it.

    I know road maintenance is needed, but I question how much new road building is necessary. I also question some of the band-aid fixes being put on the roads nowadays. Rather than fix roads right the first time, they keep coming back year after year after year with little patches that last about halfway through the winter driving season. It seems to me like money is thrown away on such shoddy repairs.

    I am formally apologizing for the overreaching statement I made. Perhaps there is much more to this than monetary concerns, but I also believe they are playing quite heavily in this decision…more heavily than any concern for little ol’ me or the rest of the unbuckled drivers.

    I’m not totally opposed to laws regulating cell phone use in vehicles, though I do think there are responsible ways to use a cell phone without endangering others. It just makes me wonder if, one day, I’ll be ticketed for changing radio stations for doing so while the vehicle is in motion. Or if I’ll be allowed to drink my coffee or snack on some jerky on those long road trips. What I expect of our lawmakers is that they craft ENFORCEABLE laws that protect the people from the individual and visa versa…and that our law enforcement branch enforces those laws.

    I decided to do a little research, and found this snippet on the CDC website. It’s a quote from Laurie Beck, an epidemiologist from CDC’s Injury Center.

    “In 2006, more than 32,000 people were killed in crashes while riding in motor vehicles, and about half of those who died weren’t using a seat belt, car seat or booster seat.”

    Half of the people dying while still wearing a seat belt seems like a lot to me. I’m not questioning the effectiveness of seat belts, it just seems like a high percentage. But anyways, I looked up Nebraska’s 2006 Vital Statistics Report, and in 2006 there were 270 motor vehicle related deaths. Using the one-half figure from the CDC, about 135 of those can be attributed to lack of seat belt use (as a side-note, I found it interesting that only 3 deaths were attributed to firearms accidents). Compared to all of the other self-inflicted preventable deaths, it’s a drop in the bucket. And if seat belt use increases by a generously estimated 15%, and the number of accidents remains the same, then half of that 15% stand a better chance of surviving (according to the CDC 50% stat), meaning the seat belt law saves approximately 10 people per year in Nebraska (135*0.15*0.5). It does not seem like a significant improvement, in my opinion. This is why I believe money is a larger deciding factor than saving lives, but probably not the only factor as I stated earlier.

  7. neal says:

    Mike — you’re criticizing the roads department for how much money they spend, but then you turn around and criticize them for doing the less-expensive patch jobs rather than completely rebuilding the roads. Is it that much of a stretch to imagine that they’re doing the less-expensive jobs because they’re having to fit the work under a budget?

    In the same report (I assume you’re referring to the 2006 Preliminary Report), there were 201 suicides listed in Nebraska. Maybe we go by different standards, but even accepting your approach to data, I don’t really see 135 deaths as a “drop in the bucket” compared to 201. Even if only 10 lives were saved each year, I’m surprised that 10 lives mean so little to you. My cousin was just in an accident not long ago where her boyfriend was killed because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. I know to her and to the rest of his friends and family, even just that one life saved would mean a world of difference. I know that some people just aren’t going to wear them, regardless of the law. But if those 10 people do, how is it not infinitely worth it?

    Ray — you should look at this cartoon.

  8. Mike Honcho says:

    I don’t know how the economics of it all work out, and I may be mistaken, but my concern is that these “cheap” patch jobs may not actually be cheaper in the long run. Maybe I’m wrong and they are cheaper…but I was raised with the mindset that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Temporary patch jobs don’t seem like the right way to do things.

    I think we are using different standards. One of the things I compared the 135 deaths to was deaths from heart disease, lung disease, and liver disease/cirrhosis. I know not all of these deaths are preventable, but I would imagine a good percentage of them are preventable by making better personal decisions. I think you and I can agree on this…yes?

    This brings me back to my earlier (misguided) accusation that this is all about money. If Sen. Harms wants to save lives at a greater rate, there are larger culprits out there that could be target…but some of those culprits are backed by a MUCH larger lobby than those who oppose seat belts being a primary offense…and to battle such a lobby means spending a lot of money. Additionally, successfully defeating those culprits could mean LESS money for the state via lost taxes…while defeating those opposed to his seat belt measure means more money for the state via federal funding. Yes, Sen. Harms may very well, and does appear to care about the lives of Nebraskans, but I believe the money is very highly motivating…as it should be.

    I feel very sad for your cousin’s loss, but do you believe the proposed law would have saved his life? I see two scenarios here…1) your cousin was driving and wearing her seat belt, and it is her responsibility to ensure that all drivers in the front seat are properly secured. She could have demanded he put his seat belt on before the vehicle was set in motion. Or 2) your cousin was the passenger and her boyfriend was the driver, in which case it is his responsibility to secure himself before driving. He could have very well been in that 85% who continue to disregard the law and drive with no seat belt. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t try to save lives…but I feel at some point, the government does have to let us make our own mistakes, regardless of how costly they may be.

    I know you and I disagree immensely on the issue of gun control…but I see similarities here. Banning guns would likely save some from dying accidentally…but at the same time, if I die from a self-inflicted accidental gunshot wound, then I will probably die with no regrets, because it was my choice to engage in that activity. It may not comfort my family any, but I can’t live my life and base all of my decisions on what my family and loved ones think and feel.

    Here’s where I got my statistics.


  9. Mike Honcho says:

    BTW, please don’t get the impression from scenario #1 that I believe the boyfriend’s death was your cousin’s fault. I just read it again, and I saw how it could come off that way. That was not my intention…and I apologize if that’s how it reads.

  10. neal says:

    Mike, I don’t think for a second that you’re trying to blame my cousin, so don’t worry, and I appreciate your clarification. And I’m pretty sure that in her particular case, the law wouldn’t have made any difference. But those 10-14 percent that are motivated by the change in the law aren’t erased by this anecdotal evidence. If the law is changed, nobody is going to climb in the car and buckle your seatbelt. You still have that choice to make your own costly mistake. But 10-14 percent are going to decide to buckle up, and those are real lives saved. In Nebraska, by the figures we’re bouncing around, that’s at least 10 lives per year.

    I don’t share your belief that one should just ignore one life-saving opportunity if there are others. Addressing multiple concerns in spite of a relative hierarchy of importance is why legislative bodies are broken up into committees, so that a wide variety of programs are addressed even if they’re relatively less important than others. The Judiciary Committee doesn’t just stop what it’s doing if the affairs of the Education Committee seem more important to the state at the time. Last I knew, Harms wasn’t a part of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, but the point of the analogy here is that I hardly think it’s foolish to try to save lives on the highway simply because more people are dying of heart disease.

    Re: the patch jobs, I think you’re right — I was also operating from the assumption that multiple patch jobs are probably more expensive over the long run than tearing something out and replacing it. My point was that tearing something out and replacing it is undeniably going to be more expensive in a particular budget year, and when an agency is dealing with the annual public perception that it is doing nothing but wasting their tax dollars, do you think they’re going to opt for the $15 million overhaul or the $100,000 patch? Obviously the numbers are arbitrary and hypothetical, but I think you see what I mean. There’s such a pervasive sense that every dollar government spends is wasted that I would not be surprised if the need to keep annual budgets prevents projects from being done right — and more expensively in the short term — in favor of doing the bare minimum, which is more expensive in the long run but more pleasing to the eye of a taxpayer or legislator who is looking at nothing but a year-to-year spending comparison.

  11. Mike Honcho says:

    I see where you’re coming from, and I can appreciate your viewpoint. I guess it might just boil down to me being selfish. I don’t like the idea that I can be pulled over and ticketed for not wearing my seat belt.

    Believe me, I have honestly made concerted efforts in the past to wear my seat belt, but good habits don’t seem to stick near as well with me as the bad ones, though I’ve managed to avoid tobacco and alcohol addiction, thank God. I always wear my seat belt on the interstate because, even though I know I can drive safely at that speed, I’ve personally encountered quite a few who cannot. I know I should wear it in town…the problem is that I literally live within 5 minutes of my work (I know, I should walk, or ride my bike, but I don’t). In my mind, it doesn’t seem worth it to buckle up for a 5 minute commute, especially when I drive very defensively and maintain good awareness of my surroundings, and I don’t encounter a lot of traffic either. Even when I try to make a concerted effort to wear it in town, I often times forget (as my wife, I forget a lot of things)…and I don’t remember I was supposed to put it on until I go to get out of my vehicle.

    I think you’re right about the roads thing, too. This is where people need to put just a little bit of trust in the government agencies who are taking care of their respective responsibilities. Yes, it may cost a little more now, but it will be worth it in the long run. One of the most annoying developments I’ve seen in road maintenance is this trend to the use of the chip-and-seal or armor-coat resurfacing. It doesn’t really make the road any smoother, and it usually increases the amount of errant rocks I pick up with my windshield.

  12. Matt says:

    On shoddy roads:
    I’m pretty sure that the roads department are in a long line of other things such as construction that are intentionally done cheaply for no other reason than to ensure that you have a job when something breaks. Its why new homes have lots of problems and hundred year old homes have relatively few problems considering the age. It gets done all the time with government contractors, and is the easiest way to ensure that you can demand more money.

  13. nathan says:

    I seem to recall a large debate over this about 10 years ago. I can’t recall if it was when they made not wearing a seatbelt an offense to begin with, or if it was trying to make it a primary offense. Anyway, as I recall, Ernie Chambers was a huge opponent of it because of its effect on poor people. His argument was that it would give the police the ability to pull anyone over, especially the poor (and black), many of whom drive vehicles without seat belts.

    There WERE a lot more vehicles back then that did not have seat belts, as they have only been required by federal law since 71-74ish. This is becoming less and less of an issue as time goes on, but I still don’t feel comfortable with giving police the ability to pull people over for this single offense. Wearing a seatbelt does not add or subtract from a drivers ability to operate the vehicle, EXCEPT in an accident. So, does the benefit of the possibility of added control in an accident outweigh the ability of the police to effectively harass citizens, some of whom are guilty only of driving an old car? This appears to have good intentions, but I think that the end effect will be to give more power to the police.

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