But Officer, the Seat Belt Doesn't Fit Over My Explosive Vest

We must be turning the corner in Iraq, because police in Baghdad have begun enforcing a law that requires drivers to wear seat belts. "Some might say that there are more pressing issues," The New York Times concedes, "like the car bombs that can turn a morning commute into a nightmare of blood and body parts, the daily killings and kidnappings, the political and sectarian infighting." Then again, maybe the seat belt law reflects Iraqis' aspirations to be like the peaceful, affluent countries of the West:

"It is a symbol of civilization," said a taxi driver, Ahmed Wahayid, whose 1993 Hyundai Elantra was stuck in a long line of cars waiting to clear a checkpoint. "Western people in Europe and America have it, so we are like them."

But forcing people to wear seat belts may represent the wrong kind of normality:

Brig. Gen. Zuhair Abada Mraweh, traffic commander for the capital's Rusafah district...said that the seat belt legislation—which applies only to drivers, not passengers—was in effect during the government of Saddam Hussein. 

According to the Times, by the way, Mraweh "said that there were no dependable statistics on traffic accidents, but that enforcing the law would reduce them by 70 percent." If seat belts in Iraq prevent crashes, I guess that's why car bombers don't wear them. 

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  • Jennifer||

    By passing out seatbelt tickets, the cops can say "Look! We're Doing Something!" without having the actually Do Anything to make the country safer. It's like the cops in Hartford last year: after determining that murder and assault rates were skyrocketing in the city, the cops decided to Do Something by cracking down on marijuana possession. Murder and assault rates didn't go down one bit, but the cops could say "Look! We're Doing Something!"

  • ||

    A Brigadier General is "traffic commander" for just one district of one city?

  • ||

    By passing out seatbelt tickets, the cops can say "Look! We're Doing Something!"

    Additionally, very few police will desert, or join the other side, while handing out seat belt tickets.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Jennifer will feel differently about this someday when her children start driving in Iraq without wearing their seat belts.

  • Elemenope||

    Brig. Gen. Zuhair Abada Mraweh, traffic commander for the capital's Rusafah district...said that the seat belt legislation-which applies only to drivers, not passengers-was in effect during the government of Saddam Hussein.

    Wha...?

    On the other hand, next time I get pulled over for a traffic stop, I'm gonna have to try that line. "Yeah, you know who else had traffic regulations? Saddam Hussein, that's who."

  • Abdul||

    Maybe the seat-belt law is like the "broken windows" theory applied to Iraq. Cops enforcing small infractions discourage more serious crimes from occurring.

    Also, anyone who's visited the 2nd or 3rd world knows the drivers there are maniacs and accidents are far more common there.

  • ||

    Hmmm, how many shekels or dinars to tear that tix up?

    Hmmm, so now primary offense seat belt stops are fishing expeditions to search for car bombs? Where the heck is the ICLU?

  • ||

    "enforcing the [seat belt] law would reduce [traffic accidents] by 70 percent"

    Seat belt laws CAUSE accidents, they don't prevent them. Forcing drivers to wear seat belts lowers the cost of a collision, meaning drivers will choose to "buy" more collisions by driving less carefully.

  • Elemenope||

    Larry, I think you might have gone involuntarily, temporarily retarded.

    It comes from breathing that Reason (tm) air.

    No driver I know says "well, I'm wearing a seatbelt, so I feel safe to drive at ridiculous speeds; the seatbelt will save me!" Maybe I just live in a not-fucking-insane part of the country. I dunno.

  • thoreau||

    On the margin, I'm sure that if we search hard enough we can find some example of increased recklessness due to seat belts reducing the cost of recklessness. However, if those marginal increases in recklessness are miniscule, and the marginal decrease in deaths per accident are large, then seat belts are a net positive.

    Yes, yes, I know, there still shouldn't be a law. Fine. That doesn't change the cost-benefit analysis, it just affects whether the beneficial action should be chosen freely, imposed by authorities, or required as part of the contract with the private insurance company covering the privately owned road that requires all customers to sign a contract agreeing to adhere to certain practices on private blah blah blah.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Oh, I doubt we need to look all that hard. Of course, seat belt laws and mandatory airbags [insert backseat driving in-law joke here] and other safety enhancements have lowered the likelihood of injury from accidents and thus made them "more affordable." The claim was regarding the absolute number of accidents, not the harm caused.

  • Darwin||

    I oppose mandatory seat belt laws, because the system breaks down when stupid people can't voluntarily remove themselves from the gene pool.

  • Taktix®||

    Darwin | April 17, 2008, 12:17pm | #
    I oppose mandatory seat belt laws, because the system breaks down when stupid people can't voluntarily remove themselves from the gene pool.


    Atheist!
    Eugenicist!
    Demon in a pant-suit!

  • ||

    According to the Times, by the way, Mraweh "said that there were no dependable statistics on traffic accidents, but that enforcing the law would reduce them by 70 percent."

    Sounds like a line from the Drug Warriors playbook being picked up by Iraq douchbags.

    We have no idea of the number of incidents or amounts of substance being imported. But we can tell you that we are reducing them by 70%.

    Please someone anyone my $100 is still up for the taking. All you need to do is tell me what 23% of the number in my head amounts to and it is all yours.

  • jtuf||

    Police enforcing small laws is a good thing. It means the power to make or repeal laws rests with the elected officials. If the elected officials repealled the seat belt law, I would be ecstatic, naturally.

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