United States Supreme Court Justice William Douglas once wrote, “common sense often makes a good law.” Perhaps his assessment is true, but what is common sense? Other than two words strung together, often used to mock someone for not knowing how to change a tire or boil water, what is common sense? The dictionary sums up common sense as, “good sense; sound judgment in practical matters.” The dictionary notwithstanding, there are thousands of points of views and topics to debate – is this or that common sense? Is something I deem as common sense, common sense to you? Now, I am not saying that we can all attain the same level of understanding, intelligence or common sense or that even everything must be litigated and legislated.
But if something is practically universally labeled as “common sense” should it be a law? What if it is costing more than 1,500 people their lives each year and a staggering 29 of those lives being from Oklahoma and under the age of 18? What if the imposition of the law is the manufacturer’s intended use of that item? Yes, I have used more than 180 words to set up this question. Why shouldn’t the government mandate that children from the ages of eight to 17 who are passengers in the rear seat of a vehicle be properly secured with a seat belt? It is universally accepted in the engineering, medical, scientific and practically every other applicable discipline that seat belts save lives. So, why do we continue to accept this horrible loss of life?
Earlier this week it was mentioned to me that such a law would impose on a per- son’s civil liberties. In the interest of protecting our children, we don’t allow them to consume alcohol, buy fireworks or lottery tickets, smoke or sign a contract. Not wearing a seat belt is no less dangerous than any of these activities. We have more than 50 years of data on seat belts and the use of them. Not wearing a seat belt makes a person 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash. Another staggering statistic is that more than three out of four people who are ejected during a fatal crash die from their injuries. Oklahoma ranks among the top in the nation for fatality wrecks among minors. Or put another way, Oklahoma ranks near the top in preventable deaths.
WILL THAT CHANGE?
When Oklahoma State Senator Carri Hicks discovered via Twitter that Oklahoma doesn’t have a rear seat belt law, she requested an interim study to examine the issue. She had tweeted about an exchange she had with her minor son, tell- ing him it was the law and a constituent responded that it wasn’t. I imagine her shock was similar to mine when I heard it. There is an untold amount of laws designed to protect our children but not one that prevents them from dying a senseless death in the back seat of a car? Ms. Hicks needs our help to correct this glaring loophole. If we are going to become a Top 10 state, we cannot continue to have what she characterizes as, “some of the weakest seat belt laws in the country.” I urge you to contact your state senator and tell them you want this common-sense measure passed.