Safety Laws Help Protect Us From Ourselves


Flout Them Only If You Want To Be A Statistic

August 21, 1991|By Russ Mullaly

On my travels in Howard County, I've noticed a lack of concern by many people for personal and group safety. We regularly hear news stories concerning injuries and fatalities caused by individuals who don'temploy common-sense methods to protect themselves.

For instance, we've had a number of drownings in county lakes. In each case, the victims were not wearing life jackets while they were boating or canoeing. Yet when I was in Centennial Park recently, I did not see one person using one of these lifesaving devices.

What gives?

You still see people on the roads not wearing seatbelts, or holding a small child in their laps, also without benefit of belts.

They are not only showing no concern for the safety of ahelpless child, but they are violating laws as well.

How often doyou hear about auto accidents in which, the story states, "the victim was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident?"

Or if a motorcyclist died from massive head injuries, "he was not wearing ahelmet at the time."

Of course, in such cases the motorcyclist iswithin state law, since it is not illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

We've all heard stories about fires causing severe damage, serious injuries or deaths. In a number of these cases we read that "there was no functioning smoke detector in the house," or that "the house was not equipped with a smoke detector."

I've even heard people say, "I needed the battery for my radio, so I took it out ofthe smoke detector and forgot to replace it."

We can go on and on, with people not wearing eye protection when using chain saws, grinders, or welding equipment; failure to wear protective or fire-proof clothing in work that requires it; failure to wear respirators when working with noxious chemicals; drinking while boating (or, of course, driving); parents not insisting that their children wear legally required bicycle helmets; smoking around flammable products, and so on.

We can observe this lack of safety any day around our county.

Why do people continue to do these things when the consequences are well known?

Are these folks stupid, are they daredevils who need the challenge and excitement, are they ignorant of the dangers, or do they just not give a damn about anything?

We have laws to protect people from themselves and from each other.

These laws are necessary because some people won't follow basic rules of safety.

Some bristle and try to resist these attempts to protect them by saying, "You're taking away my freedom to choose what I do."

When we all have topay for things like medevac helicopters, shock-trauma centers and insurance to cover these folks who are exercising their freedom to be stupid, everyone loses.

I have a theory as to why many people use no common sense when it comes to safety.

I think these people don'twant to admit to their mortality.

Perhaps they have a sort of "accidents only happen to others" faith.

If you take safety precautions, you are admitting to yourself that something can happen to you.

If I buckle my seat belt, I'm admitting to myself that I could havean accident. If I put on a helmet, I'm admitting that I could have acrash; if we use a smoke detector or keep a fire extinguisher in thehouse, we could have a fire; or if I use a life jacket, I could havea boating accident.

Do you see the pattern? If I ignore something, it will go away.

Maybe I'm just reading too much into the human condition.

Maybe those who allow themselves to become victims are stupid or ignorant, or both.

But let's protect ourselves and say, "I know I'll never need these items, but just in case some jerk happens to run into me, I'll be ready for him!"

It seems so senseless for a person to die or be maimed because they didn't perform a simple act like buckling a belt.

What a waste!

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