Because the Police Aren’t Busy
MODOT engineer Judy Wagner thinks that police have nothing better to do than harass motorists about wearing their seat belts. She claims that “wouldn’t cost anything.” It “doesn’t cost anything” in precisely the same way it “wouldn’t cost anything” to pass a law requiring the St. Louis police to clean my bathroom. The cost is in the form of police time, time they could be spending dealing with actual crimes like speeding, drunk driving, or murder.
Beyond the waste of police resources, the proposal also worries me because it gives undue discretion to police officers. There are far more people not wearing seat belts than the police could possibly pull over, so the police would have a great deal of discretion about who to target. Moreover, even if someone is wearing a seatbelt, it’s not that easy to see it in a moving car, so a police officer could easily claim he thought someone wasn’t wearing a seat belt and pulled them over to check. That, in effect, means that the police would have an excuse to pull over anyone they like. That kind of arbitrary discretion in the hands of government officials is worrisome because it opens the door to abuses of power like racial profiling.