I was going to comment yesterday on the dust up in the Illinois governor’s race over, of all things, the state’s mandatory seatbelt law. I held off because I had only heard the story on WUIS and couldn’t easily find anything on the net to link to. I was afraid I might have not understood exactly what I thought I heard. Then later in the day, Jim at AbeLog had this post where he goes into the story in more detail.
Apparently the Topinka campaign didn’t deal very well with the salvo from the Blagojevich camp. A round that seemed to come out of nowhere. I mean, who the hell is still talking about the seatbelt law? That issue was settled more than 20 years ago. Surely there’s something more pressing then that.
For those unfamiliar with this minor flap, the Blagojevich folks came up with the damning evidence that Topinka opposed the seatbelt legislation while the issue was being debated in the mid-1980s. She opposed the plan on the grounds that it was too much government intrusion. Fair enough, many people argued that at the time. Many people feel that way now.
However, in his post, Jim says something that I wonder if it is true:
Many voters may talk a good game about opposing government intrusion, but theyLet’s suppose Topinka were to win the election and immediately set out to repeal the seatbelt law. Would there really be a public outcry? Is it really that popular?
don't really mind it when it comes to keeping themselves and their loved ones safe. The Patriot Act is government intrusion -- and it's overwhelmingly supported. And voters understand that seat belt laws save lives, and they'd never stand for a repeal.
I was doing a talk radio show in the mid ‘80s when this was an issue. In the four years I did that show I don’t think there was a topic that generated more calls than that one. Those calls were mostly in opposition. I mostly took a position in favor of the legislation. For one thing, it finally got me to wear a seatbelt; something I did not do prior to the new law.
I used to love some of the rational behind opposing the law. Often it involved some antidotal story about cousin Millie being involved in a crash where the police officer on the scene told Millie that had she been wearing a seatbelt she would have been killed! Dead, don’t your know! The other one I liked was the theoretical possibility of winding up with your car in the water and not being able to get your seatbelt undone before the water pouring into your vehicle snuffed out your life. Drowned, I tell you!
Oh, and there was that whole intrusive government thing too.
The bottom line is, there was substantial opposition to the seatbelt law then and I think a lot of people wouldn’t mind it gong away now. These people may be in the minority, but they would be very vocal if any repeal movement actually got underway. I also suggest that another large portion of the population simply wouldn’t care much either way. So while I agree it’s very unlikely there will be any politician making the effort to change the law, I don’t think it would be hugely unpopular.