Why I don’t want to wear a seat belt

Published: July 7, 2010

Does the state have the right to enforce this precaution with monetary penalties?

Should the state have the right to fine a person for not taking care of himself? Islamabad police commonly fine drivers in monetary terms for a variety of offences. I understand penalising practices that distract the driver. Talking on the phone, texting, and watching videos on LCD monitors are all activities that demand the driver’s attention and thus increase the probability of an accident.

A motorist performing stunts also runs the risk of losing control and crashing into someone. These activities are a threat to other people in the society and should thus be fined. But, what of the personal precaution of wearing seat belts?  My chances of having an accident are not increased if I do not wear my seat belt.

In fact, John Adams, risk expert and emeritus professor of geography at University College London studied data from  25 years and found that mandating the use of seat belts in 18 countries resulted in either no change or a net increase in road accident deaths. He suggests that the sense of security created by seat belts adversely affects driving behavior.

However, I should not be misunderstood as arguing against the seat belt, I realise that it is a brilliant invention that increases the chances of surviving an accident.

What I am questioning is the state’s right to enforce this precaution with monetary penalties simply because it is (popularly presumed to be) ‘good for us’. Should my relationships with myself and the intensity of my self-preservative spirit ever translate into the government’s finances?

Traffic wardens could just stop me and remind me to fasten my seat belt, after all it seems to work just fine for airline crew. The most common contention I receive on this proposition, is that the financial deterrent is necessary to make people ‘learn’.

So the essential point being made here is that our nation is too immature to know what is best for them. And that an enforcing body is required to make people conform and behave in their own best interest (as judged by the governing body). I will not attempt to argue for the maturity of our people, but I will leave you with a question. Is this not exactly the same argument that is used to justify dictatorship on our ‘immature’ people?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2010.


Sachal Afraz

A graduate from the Lahore University of Management Sciences currently pursuing post-graduate studies at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.