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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

To Buckle Up or Not

Kansas, a state squarely in the midsection of the United States, just recently outlawed riding in cars without the seatbelts fastened.  When Virginia instituted the same law, possibly as many as five years ago, it gave me a big kick, even though it violated one of my cardinal principles, which is that there are far too many laws on the books already, and that for every new one, two more should be repealed.  I mean, can life be so much more complicated now than it was 50 years ago that we should have so many more laws draped over and weighing us down like a gigantic chain mail blanket?

The reason therefore that the Virginia seatbelt law nevertheless gave me a sort of thrill was because it meant that here finally was a law that I could safely ignore, because I've always fastened my seat belt, ever since I got my first car, a black VW Bug fresh off the boat from Germany, back in 1963.   Wearing it made me feel more secure, not at all in the sense that I wouldn't be thrown out of the car during an accident, but instead because it made me feel as if I was more a part of the car, and therefore was in better control of the vehicle.

"Wearing it" is an interesting phrase there, because a man in Kansas is going to court to challenge the law, on the grounds that the law infringes on his right to make such a decision on his own.   It is like the objections to wearing motorcycle helments.   So he fashioned a portable seatbelt that he keeps buckled around his waist all the time, whether in a car or not, and he argues that he is still not breaking the law because it doesn't say that the belt has to be actually bolted to the car.

Clever as that is, it still strikes me as being a cumbersome solution, and I don't believe I will be looking out for the outcome to this case, because it just adds to my years-long contention that everything that happens in a courtroom is an exercise in nastiness.

But I am reminded of my late ex-brother-in-law.   He was a Park Policeman who patrolled on a mothercycle with a sidecar in Washington, D.C., and though an extremely practical man, he, too, opposed his own personal "wearing" of a seatbelt.   His thinking was that should he have an accident in a place like Rock Creek Park, and the vehicle overturned in some water, he would be locked in there by the belt and would be unable to get out and would drown,   Maybe during his work he had seen just such an incident.

This guy in Kansas had the same reservation, though he was thinking more about fire and such..   In case of water or fire, though, I always liked my chances, and opted more for the benefits of  my hands and feet being extensions of the steering wheel and the brakes.

Still ringing in my ears is an admonition that, as a novice driver, I got from my great good friend and fellow chessplayer, a teacher and a  much older man, Mr. Simms.   When I showed him my gleaming brand new '63 Bug, the first thing he did was to get inside and pump the brakes.  "Never mind the rest of it.  Just always make sure that these work," he said.

He didn't say anything about the seat belts.  At that time they were still such a novelty that hardly anybody used them, but they were there, and I was determined that I was going to use them, and I did 


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