Buckle up or pay up

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By Alice Du Pont

For years I have cringed when I see people driving down the street with children, often babies,  in the front seat sitting in someone's lap. Or children in the back, kneeling in the seat, waving to other motorists with their little faces pressed to the window. These children are obviously not in a child restraint device.

I have heard a lot of the excuses: "He doesn't like it" or "He cries when I try to put him in it" are the most  popular ones. But there is no excuse for not having a child buckled up. If a car makes a sudden stop the child becomes a human missile. They can shoot into and sometimes out of the front windshield before anyone has a chance to react. Even with a seatbelt on, a jolt from behind can cause considerable damage to the human body of an adult if it's hard enough.

A few months back it became a law that motorists could be ticketed for seatbelt violations even if it was not connected with another infraction. A reader, very upset, stopped me to complain about the new seatbelt laws. His rationale is that he should not be required to wear a seatbelt and police could better use their time ticketing people who don’t use turn signals properly.

Of course, he didn't want to hear what I had to say. But had he listened, I would have told him that, overwhelmingly, evidence has proven that seatbelts save lives. It's one thing for an adult to choose not to wear a seatbelt. They've made a conscious decision to put their lives in danger but children have not.

Jimmy, who delivers our newspaper around town, poked his head in my door the other night and talked about the number of people he sees regularly who do not have children buckled in or in child restraints. Like me, he thinks that law enforcement should crack down on these people. The fine is $250. And I hear the same refrain from law enforcement when I inquire about what seems to me to be the lack of enforcement when it comes to seatbelts:  "In this economy citizens don't have the money."

Well nobody wants to pick up a dead baby because they were unrestrained when involved in an accident either, in these economic times. It cost more than $250 bury a child and if a child is hospitalized for any length of time, it could cost $250,000. I say the driver should be fined and ordered to pay the $250 without exception when a child is involved. That's a pretty good price to pay for a one time lesson and one the driver won't forget.

There is a good reason for such a law: seatbelts save lives.

Send your comments to adupont@gadcotimes.com.