When I was a child growing up in the '70s , I did not wear a seat belt. I would sleep in the back window or on the floor of the car and no one thought twice about it. My grandmother would drive my sister and me and we would fight and crawl over the seats. Sometimes my dad would even let us ride in the bed of his truck. Back in the '70s it was just normal to see this type of activity while riding down the roads in Texas.
I started driving in 1981 and never thought about wearing a seat belt. Then in 1985, Texas passed a law that made it mandatory to wear a seat belt. When I first heard of this new law I was furious. How dare they peer into my car to see if I was wearing a seat belt? How dare the government demand that I wear a seat belt in my car or fine me? What happened to our freedoms? So I continued to choose not to wear a seat belt. Well shortly after, I got ticket No. 1 that cost $45, then ticket No. 2 that cost $90, and then finally ticket No. 3 that cost $145. I was defiant, so I played the "see a cop pull the seat belt down" game. This game got old fast because I felt I was doing something wrong and I was continually on the lookout for the police. So one day I chose to wear it and this choice turned into a habit.
Since moving to North Dakota I have noticed how many drivers don't buckle up. I heard not wearing a seat belt is not a primary reason for police to pull a person over. I think this is a good thing and that it is not so intrusive. I still think it should be a choice if an adult driver wants to wear a seat belt or not. If the driver gets distracted, runs off the road, flips the car, gets ejected and gets their head crushed or neck broke it was the consequence of a poor choice. I think the best way to get people to choose to wear a seat belt is to give them all the facts and information on the positives and negatives of choosing to wear a seat belt. Maybe have the state make a short DVD showing the aftermath of wrecks where people chose not to buckle up. Also, make the DVD sad and appeal to their emotions. Let the people who get a ticket for not wearing their seat belt watch the DVD in lieu of the fine. Sometimes shocking the senses is the best way to get through to people.
I was reading the newspaper today and another soul had lost their life in a one car accident. This person was not wearing a seat belt and might have survived if their body was not ejected half-way out of the vehicle. Such a senseless way to die when a quick click will keep you in your seat and not under a sheet. Drive safe and choose wisely.
(Cindy Johnson is one of four community columnists for The Minot Daily News).