Monday, May 19, 2008
Brace Yourself For The Annual Multi-Million Dollar Orwellian "Click It Or Ticket" Seat Belt Propaganda Campaign, Even In Alaska
As reported on May 18th, 2008 by both the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and KTUU Channel 2, America braces itself for the massive annual Soviet-style seat belt propaganda campaign known as "Click It Or Ticket". All over America, cops will be pulled away from real law enforcement and chasing actual criminals in order to check if you and I, Mr. and Mrs. America, are being good little boys and girls and wearing our seat belts. It doesn't matter if you're driving from Anchorage to Fairbanks or merely across the street to the nearest shopping mall - you don't "click it", you'll get a ticket.
This campaign is actually centered around the Memorial Day holiday weekend, which marks the start of the vacation season for many, resulting in an upsurge in the number of motorists on our highways. It mercifully ends on June 1st, but for the next two weeks, if you watch T.V., you'll be endlessly spammed with "Click It Or Ticket" public service announcements (except perhaps the nightly national news programs, which spam us with more lucrative pill commercials instead as Big Pharma continues to scare us into going to the doctor to get expensive designer pills, driving up health insurance costs in the process).
Like every other state, Alaska will participate in this madness. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) website provides summaries of each state's projected efforts. The GHSA provides a list of each state's seatbelt laws as well. Thanks to State Senator Con Bunde (R-Anchorage Hillside), Alaska has a primary seat belt law, meaning that if a cop spots you not wearing a seat belt, you can be stopped and cited. The law applies to all vehicle occupants 16 and older, with a $15 maximum fine on the first offense. Since Alaska does not grant authority to law enforcement to operate sobriety checkpoints, it is unlikely that there will be seat belt checkpoints.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is running the "Click It Or Ticket" program. According to their website, their FY 2008 budget is $851 million. Of that, $124.5 million is disbursed to the states in the form of Seat Belt Performance Grants, in which states earn this money by upgrading to primary seat belt laws and/or maintaining an 85 percent or higher seat belt usage rate. There is no specific listing for the "Click It Or Ticket" campaign, though.
But in 2003, conservative columnist Walter Williams disclosed that the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century allocated $500 million for seat belt campaigns. He did not specify whether this was an annual figure or a cumulative figure. Proponents of "Click It Or Ticket" claim the expenditures are justified because we are reducing unbelted traffic fatalities. The Alaska Department of Transportation website shows that while total Alaska fatalities declined only marginally, from 89 in 2002 to 84 in 2007, the number of unbelted fatalities declined more sharply, from 54 to 33 during the same period.
But fatalities are not the only meaningful measure of merit here. What we also need to be asking is if overall seat belt usage is increasing. A chart posted on the Alaska Department of Transportation website shows that between 2002 and 2003, seat belt usage dramatically jumped from 50 percent to 79 percent. However, since that time, usage has been relatively stable, increasing to only 82 percent in 2007. So this means the primary mission of this expensive propaganda campaign, which has been directed primarily at the 18-to-34 male demographic, has long since been fulfilled, and those who don't currently wear seat belts will not be reached by continuing this expensive propaganda campaign. Consequently, further propaganda campaigns need to be re-directed towards the next generation working their way through our school system.
So, considering that we have a national debt in excess of $9 trillion, squandering $500 million, or even $124.5 million on a seat belt propaganda campaign is ludicrous, particularly if we are no longer increasing the percentage of people using them. The organic mission of government is to provide essential services, not to change the world or engage in expensive and oppressive behavior modification campaigns. So as far as I'm concerned, Click It Or Ticket can just Stick It!