New law another reason to unfairly mistrust police


If you feel a pair of eyes staring through your car window next week, it won’t be paranoia — just the police.

While not wearing a seat belt has been illegal for some time, the County Council last week approved an ordinance, effective March 7, giving police the authority to stop drivers for that reason.

While we’re sure 5th District Councilman Barbara Fraser had the best of intentions for introducing this ordinance, we don’t believe she and most of the council see the hypocrisy at play. Given the fact that the council rejected smoking-ban bills in 2005 and again in 2006, doesn’t it seem inconsistent to now support this ordinance on personal behavior?

On top of that, public smoking is more obtrusive and more harmful to others than not wearing a seat belt. Secondhand smoke can cause problems ranging from minor, inconvenient coughing to full-blown lung cancer. But what harm would a driver not wearing a seat belt be to passengers? That driver is giving someone a ride — not the threat of cancer.

Recent hypocrisy aside, the council was correct last August to oppose legislation that would have banned smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places. You can’t legislate habits, and that council knew it.

However, because the council voted on the side of personal freedoms last summer, we find it ironic that many of those same councilmen now support the new mandatory seat-belt law.

That said, we are not anti-seat belt.

All children under the age of 18 should be required to wear one. Why 18? If you’re old enough to elect the councilmen who approve such seat-belt laws, you should be old enough to decide for yourself. However, drivers who never wear seat belts could be reasonably assumed a hazard to their own health. But this is America. And if you have the right to fill your lungs with cancer-causing tobacco in public and gulp down the cholesterol overload that fast-food restaurants call a menu, you should have the right to not wear a seat belt.

But what do I know? I just paid a ticket for not wearing mine in Illinois. That is why I now buckle up every time for not only my health, but mostly for my wallet. Living in fear of a police officer glaring through your window will do that to a person.

Legislation through intimidation is sure to not only make people buckle up, but also give them yet another reason to unfairly mistrust law enforcement. Police are a service to the public, not an intrusion on privacy.