Matters of Moment, August 1997

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Belt up:

As soon as the Election is over the busy-bodies will resume the campaign for compulsory seat belts. After all, the Civil Service treats drivers and motorvehicle owners much the same whatever Government is in power. We wish they would all belt-up the AA, Lord Montagu, the DOE, many so-called motoring journalists and the rest who are advocating compulsory wearing of seat belts. Let us make it clear that MOTOR SPORT is not dissuading anyone from putting on a safety-harness, if he or she wishes to wear one. But we are dead against compulsion. It may or may not be simple common sense to use seat belts in everyday, ordinary motoring. It is still a matter of opinion, a very open one. The editor, who dislikes being strapped to anything, even a motor car, is a non-belt man, but his wife wears a seat belt, whether in a Fiat 126 or BMW, while motoring with him. Whether or not one beltsup, it should be left to personal choice.

Those, like the writer, who have been thrown from an overturning car (an Allard, in a pre-war speed hill-climb), the cockpit of which was crushed, and who have seen cars catch fire, have sound masons for being against compulsion. Others feel vulnerable unless they belt-up. Compulsion is wrong your life is your own and how you safeguard it should be your affair. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink! Compulsion seldom brings happy results. We have been compelled to fit seat belts to our modem cars. Motorcyclists are compelled to wear crash hats. If we permit more compulsion, motorcyclists may found themselves banned, on the grounds that riders gain no safety from being strapped to two-wheelers. We could find speed limits forever unrescinded, in spite of ever safer cars and better, very expensive roads.

Are the police soon to be busy checking for unbuckled belts? If so, endorsements for forgetfulness, or for deliberately ignoring a fresh compulsion, will cause further resentment between police and motorists and will further overload the Courts. It might be said that those who don’t belt-up are either drivers well able to look after themselves or are so foolish they are unlikely to remember the clunk-click thing, anyway. So why the press for unwelcome compulsion?

If we go on like this, fussing about whether it is better to be flung through a laminated or a toughened screen, we had better give up motoring and risky sports altogether, indeed anything that involves the smallest possible chance of accidents safety belts, crash hats, more speed limits, more Armco from the do-gooders and, of course, the over-60s must be compelled to put on water wings in the bath, in case of involuntary drowning.

We shall now be bombarded with arguments about the cost of crashes to the Health Service, to which most of us contribute, whether we wish to or not. This is no reason for inflicting compulsion on the community. Anyway, the service may not be there when it is most wanted, if the modem Florence Nightingales have their way, striking for more pay; once lost, never regained. So by all means put on your seat belts but NO COMPULSION.

The election

It seen that we are soon to have another General Election inflicted on us by Harold Wilson. It is not for a motor journal to predict whether this will result in a continuation of Socialism in Britain, a return to Conservative rule, or whether, whatever the outcome, the Communist-influenced Trade Unions will eventually take control.

The political scene is now so complicated that many voters would see a motorists’ charter as the most important aspect of an Election. They would back the party that promises to reduce the iniquities inflicted on drivers, by the Laws and Courts procedure, to ban the costly business of Big Brother in a helicopter (which we hope doesn’t itself break any low-flying regulations) searching for motoring offenders, use the triple-endorsement punishment only for serious offences and stop this silly use of expensive radar equipment for apprehending those who go a few mph over the equally absurd 70-limit on our million-pounds-a-mile fine, new motorways. Let us not overlook the fact that Germany is the only country which has no speed limit on its autobahns leading to dangerous traffic-bunching and frustration, and that this came about because of a strong Parliamentary motoring lobby. And that a healthy Motor Industry offers full employment to a great many people. WB