So here we are another year and another click it or ticket crack down. It’s the annual effort across the state for extra seat belt enforcement. Grant money is given by NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety for this effort. $810,120 is being divvied up between state, county and local agencies. This year someone 134 townships are involved. These crackdowns, including seat belt checkpoints, begin Monday.

They will tell you this is is all about safety. And it’s easy to convince themselves of that because statistically law enforcement is absolutely right. Wearing a seat belt statistically is far safer than not wearing a seat belt. But we are already at a compliance rate of over 90%. When government talks about not resting until seat belt use is at 100% compliance they know that’s never going to happen. You could double the fines. Triple, quadruple the fines. There will always be a certain number of people who would rather pay the fine and not wear a seat belt simply because they have a gut feeling that in their individual case a seat belt will end up killing them.

The thing is, you cannot prove these folks wrong. Because sometimes it does go down that way. My uncle would have died in his 20s had he been wearing a seat belt. He was driving a car unbelted on a 50 mile per hour road. Whether through inattentiveness or because someone cut him off, I’ve never been clear on that part of the story, he ended up on the shoulder where right in front of him was a parked 18 wheeler. He had nowhere to go and saw it coming at the last second. He threw himself off the seat with his head down by the floorboards just as his car made impact. The tractor trailer sheared off the entire top half of my uncle’s vehicle and had he been wearing his seat belt he would have been decapitated. First responders told him so.

When you hear these rare stories, or especially if you personally survive one of these rare accidents by not wearing a seat belt, it’s a hard thing to get out of your head. Therefore that $46 fine they threaten us with is meaningless. Now I’ve been one to always go with the odds when it comes to seat belts. I have always worn them. They could make it legal to not wear a seat belt tomorrow and I will still choose to wear one. But I’ve never liked nanny laws. I don’t like the government playing daddy and trying to protect me from myself. I wear a seat belt because of the laws of physics and probability, not because of the laws of New Jersey. So I don’t think people should be forced into this when they feel otherwise.

Jersey knows it will never reach 100% compliance with seat belts. But they will tell themselves this is the mission so that it feels like a noble cause, so that it feels like the moral thing to do. That’s much easier than admitting this is just nice overtime for the officers and a good windfall in fine money. Yes, money. And that’s what this is all about.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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