and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
June #1

Seat-belt law almost ruined a vacation
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, June 2, 2005

So there I was on Memorial Day weekend at Logan Airport, waiting in the pickup area with my daughter-in-law, Mary, and my twin grandchildren, watching their luggage and hoping that my son, Lance, and my partner, Chip, were not on their way to jail.

It all started with the seat-belt law, which Chip had fought during his early years as a political activist. We always wear seat belts, he just didn't want the government getting involved in his personal safety decisions.

But the Legislature passed the law anyhow, and voters accepted it when they were promised it would never be the target of primary enforcement another promise on which some now keep trying to renege.

But personal responsibility issues aside, back then we didn't fully realize how little the seat-belt law allowed for basic common sense.

Chip and I had planned to pick up Lance, Mary and the 4-year-old twins at the airport in his Ford Explorer, and I was going to let them drive my Honda CRV while they were here. But over the phone from their home in Nevada, Lance and Mary informed me that all six of us couldn't fit in a car with only five seat belts.

Have you ever had reason to think about this? I hadn't, until now. Unless you own a van, grandparents, going to the airport to pick up four family members; a family wanting to take grandparents out for a drive; or parents of two kids who want to take them and two of more of their friends to a movie, have a problem.

Our solution? Take two cars.

I wonder if the same politicians who want to make violation of the seat-belt law a primary offense (allowing police to stop a motorist simply if they suspect they are not wearing one), are the same politicians who call themselves environmentalists and are always complaining about going to war for oil.

Not so long ago, everyone crammed into the one family car with kids on back-seat laps. But in 2005, having the parents hold the kids in the back seat was simply out of the question.

Lance and Mary brought their booster seats with them, and while she could fit into the seat belt between the twins, there was no place for Lance. Well, I could have left Chip at home, but following the directional signs at Logan requires at least two people one to drive and one to read and scream, "No! Wait, where did Terminal B go?" (Answer: The arrows pointing to it end at a concrete wall.)

Besides, we were going to stop for dinner on the way from Logan to Marblehead.

So maybe one of the adults could lie in the back with the luggage. Oops, no room; and no seat belt there, either. And what if, instead of an SUV, we had a hybrid car with a trunk?

Anyhow, we parked and went to the gate to meet the family. It was a long walk back to our parking spaces, so the men went to get the two cars and bring them around.

I gave Lance the keys to mine but forgot about the parking ticket in my pocket. After a long wait, an exasperated Chip pulled up alone to get the ticket and my registration apparently the ticker-taker thought Lance might have stolen my car.

Chip had paid to get out of the parking area, but he had to get another ticket to go back in in order to give mine to Lance. Then there was the additional problem that Lance's last name as it appears on his drivers license is not the same as my last name that's on my registration.

Negotiations continued. Chip has very little patience at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. He wondered loudly if he was suffering from road rage, air rage or just the final throes of seasonal affective disorder or SAD. It was determined that if they left quickly, he wouldn't have to pay another exit fee.

Lance, who is a calm and reasonable person, finds my partner a tad intense. By the time they picked us up, the original plan to put Mary and the kids in Chip's car while Lance and I took mine was inoperative. Lance had decided that his family wasn't driving with road/air rage/SAD Chip, ever, so they all buckled into my car and followed us.

He did relent on Memorial Day for the three-block drive to the parade route. Lance and Mary, the luggage removed, were able to curl up in the back of my CRV. But during the rest of the visit, Chip stayed home and worked on his boat while the five of us buckled up to go places.

Another family separated by laws that older families lived without. Yet somehow most of us survived as we packed relatives and friends into the family car and enjoyed the good old days.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.