Here’s example to follow on good citizenship

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 9, 2002

I had a good visit with Allen Cupit this week. Mr. Cupit is aretired law officer, and he wanted to discuss his views on a recentcolumn I wrote about seat belts.

If you recall, several members of my family and I were in aserious auto accident in May. I stated in the column — and I stillfirmly believe — that seat belts prevented us from sufferingserious injuries and quite possibly saved our lives.

I favor mandatory seat belt laws. Mr. Cupit doesn’t. We agreedto disagree on the subject but still had a nice visit.

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Since I pushed the use of seat belts in the earlier column, I amgoing to share some of his views on the law with you.

1. It is unconstitutional . . . it violates the rights oflaw-abiding citizens who have committed no crime or done anywrong.

2. Seat belts encourage accidents through the false sense ofsecurity they offer: “Buckle up and you will be safe when we havean accident.”

3. Seat belts do absolutely nothing to prevent accidents and aretotally meaningless until someone has an accident. (I agree withthis. Wearing your seat belt will not prevent somebody from runninga stop sign and plowing into your vehicle. And, seat belts aremeaningless on safe trips. But, my flashlight is also meaninglessunless the electricity goes out.)

4. Even airlines only require passengers to buckle-up duringtake offs and landings. Seat belt laws require you to stay buckledthe entire trip.

5. Seat belts can actually cause death in some accidentsituations, such as when a vehicle is on fire or submerged inwater, especially upside down.

Instead of a mandatory seat belt law, Mr. Cupit has some otherideas.

1. Identify the problem. Bad drivers are the problem; punishthem.

2. Find out who has most of the accidents. Insurance companiesand the Department of Public Safety have a record and they know:persons under the age of 25 (especially unmarried males), teens andthose ages 65 and up.

3. Restrictions can be placed on all driver’s licenses, so thosewho have had an accident could be restricted to seat belt use forfive years. The restriction would be removed if they have no moreaccidents. This would be an incentive to be a better driver.

Let me point out that Mr. Cupit did not come to see me to try tochange my mind about wearing a seat belt when I get into a car. Hebelieves that is my choice to make, just as not wearing a seat beltis his choice.

Mr. Cupit wants the freedom to make his choice without runningthe risk of violating the law. He is taking an active role againstefforts to change Mississippi’s secondary seat belt law to aprimary law. As the law is now, tickets for not wearing a seat beltcan be given only if the vehicle is stopped for another trafficviolation. As a primary law, drivers could be stopped and ticketedsolely for not wearing seat belts.

Allen Cupit is willing to fight for what he believes is right,and he’ll work to correct what he sees as wrong. More of us shouldfollow his example and take an active role in our national, stateand local governments.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS.39601 or send email to