New Hampshire takes great pride in not mandating what most residents consider personal choices. Ride free — no seat belt law and no motorcycle helmet requirement. Don’t want to buy car insurance? That’s OK, too. Like to shoot off fireworks in the back yard? Feel free.
But there are serious costs associated with allowing individuals to make choices that impact insurance and health-care costs. In some cases, as the statistics show, they’re life-or-death decisions.
Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers by 45 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But New Hampshire has chosen education over regulation when it comes to seat belts.
That’s ironic. In 2006, two-thirds of New Hampshire residents supported a seat belt law, according to a study by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Presumably those who responded to the survey positively are the ones traveling the state’s highways with a seat belt on.
Personal freedom is a great thing, but in this case, the state is dead wrong. Highway signs and proclamations are no substitute for regulation.
Being the only state in the country that does not mandate seat belt use is not a medal of honor. New Hampshire has plenty to be proud of, but this is not one of those things.