Push for upping seat belt regulation comes before Legislature | SummitDaily.com

Push for upping seat belt regulation comes before Legislature

Gary Lindstrom

I could tell he had told his story hundreds of times about how his son left Greeley High School at lunch to go for a ride with his friends in their pickup truck. His son was killed in an accident. He talked about how losing a child affects everyone. Friends. Family. Relatives. Everyone. He went on to tell about the boy who was driving the truck that he was riding in and how his son’s death hit the driver’s friends, family, relatives and everyone.His plea was to make wearing seat belts in Colorado a primary offense where law enforcement can pull you over for not wearing your seat belt.Right now it is a secondary offense. A secondary offense is where the officer must have reasonable suspicion you had committed another offense. Once that happens, the officer can then write you a ticket for not wearing a seat belt.The numbers are compelling. In some states, the death rate has been reduced by up to 40 percent. Four kids out of 10 are alive today because the law was changed and they had an even greater motivation to wear their seat belt.

The No. 1 hot topic at the Capitol this past week was the abortion pill. A woman can take a pill after she has been raped and it causes an abortion, if she is pregnant. The No. 2 topic was the Ward Churchill incident at the University of Colorado. We had to listen to an hour of speakers before the vote to repudiate him and his comments.That was in the morning. After lunch we got to consider seat belts.Lines and lines of police officers, doctors, hospital administrators and parents appeared, all asking that we change the law.I think the jury is still out on the effect of laws. If we want to believe they change behavior, then we should believe there is no crime because we have a law for every crime. Of course, that is absurd. If that were true, then we could get rid of all of our police departments and close all of the prisons.

Imagine that. How much money we could save if passing laws worked.No. Laws are the way we judge behavior and cause consequences for certain kinds of antisocial acts. I do not believe anyone ever considers the punishment before he or she commits the crime. After working as a police officer for more than 30 years that also included several years working in jails, I found all criminals commit their crimes believing they would not be caught.The recidivism (repeat) rate for petty crimes is almost 100 percent. The recidivism rate for murder is virtually zero. Let’s see. We kill people if they murder someone, but if someone shoplifts at a store we put them in jail for a couple of months. The murderer never commits another murder, and the shoplifter steals something in the store next to the jail when he or she gets out. You tell me the logic. If you are right, we can get together and write a best-selling book on crime and punishment.So, why does the state Legislature think increasing the level of offense associated with wearing seat belts will change behavior? Are you ready for this?

It would not change the behavior of the motoring public. It would change the behavior of the police officers on the street. That is how it works.Make not wearing your seat belt a primary offense and it will motivate officers to stop people not wearing their seat belt. Then, after a ticket or two, the offending driver will start wearing their seat belt. A crime. A consequence. A crime and an immediate consequence equal a change in behavior.By the way, I have always been against the death penalty. It takes from 10 to 15 years to go through the appeal process, so you might as well sentence them to life and forget about the courts.Some of the people hearing the testimony on the seat belt law were opposed, regardless. They felt the law was just another way government is regulating behavior. One even used the example that this would lead to a police state if the law were passed.State Rep. Gary Lindstrom of Lakeview Meadows represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties in the state House of Representatives. He can be reached at gary@garylindstrom.com or visit his website at http://www.garylindstrom.com.

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