Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, has an article entitled, Legislators Cool to Feds’ Seat-belt bait. Apparently there is a cool $15 million in it for Indiana if they close the loophole that allows drivers and passengers in pickup trucks and SUVs plated as trucks to do without seat-belts while requiring drivers of cars to buckle up. Rep. Stutzman, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, is reportedly cool to the idea. Gov. Daniels is non-committal. The ever crusading Sen. Wyss supports the idea, but isn’t interested in tackling the issue once again unless the Governor throws his weight behind it.
I’m a libertarian minded kind of guy, and I’m as cranky as the next Hoosier about issues that seem trivial to the outside viewer, such as Daylight Saving Time and a one class basketball tournament. But this business about opposing a seat belt requirement, I just do not get. The government gets into our business in a myriad of ways, almost the least of which is telling us to buckle up when we drive. There is virtually no down side to doing it, and the upside is enormous. Nobody gets worked up because the government tells them they have to use brake lights when they stop (or have brakes on their car). The seat belt is just another piece of safety equipment we’re required to use when operating a motor vehicle.
I don’t have time to get into the details just now, but I think technically, as the law is written, operators of most pickup trucks have to wear seat belts anyway. It has to do with the definitions in title 9. The definition of truck is tied to its primary use for hauling property whereas the seat belt law, I think, applies to passenger vehicles or something along those lines, tied to the purpose of transporting people. Most of the pickup trucks used in Indiana are used primarily to transport people and not property. But, after years of everybody assuming that the seat belt law doesn’t apply to pickup trucks, I don’t suppose that sort of hair splitting would be successful.
Anyway, with all of Governor Daniels’ grandstanding about fiscal austerity and finding federal money where it’s available, he should be consistent and go after the $15 million before he decides to do more nickel and diming of state employees by cutting their sticky-note allowance or something.