Recently, Maine Sen. Eric Brakey proposed misguided legislation that would repeal Maine’s mandatory seat belt law.

LD 112, An Act to Eliminate the Requirement That Adults Wear Seat Belts, will result in increased death and disability on Maine’s roads, and have significant financial implications for the people of Maine.

The driving force behind his bill is the idea that it is not the government’s responsibility to protect people from themselves, but he has failed to consider the implications of repealing the law and the ripple effect on the families of those injured and killed, or the cost to the taxpayers.

There can be no argument that mandatory seat belt laws increase seat belt use and save lives, especially among those who are otherwise least likely to use them, and also least likely to pay for the consequences. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration clearly demonstrate that seat belt use prevented 12,500 deaths and 308,000 serious injuries in 2010.

The same NHTSA study detailing lives saved and injuries averted in 2010 also documents the resulting $69 billion saved in medical care, lost productivity and injury-related costs. During the same year, 3,350 people were killed and 54,300 people were seriously injured because they didn’t wear their seat belts — costing society an estimated $13.8 billion.

Our own data in Maine shows that unbelted victims are more than twice as likely to be seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash than belted passengers.


During the hearing, Sen. Brakey presented his bill, attempted to link mandatory seat belt laws with police brutality, then left while the factual section of the hearing continued. It is too bad he missed the testimony of the trauma surgeons, police chiefs, trauma nurses, the American Automobile Association, and the governor’s highway safety representative.

After the hearing, Brakey approached a group of us discussing the hearing and introduced himself. He then smiled, looked at us, and said, “Fun bill, huh?”

No Eric, this isn’t a fun bill. Fun bills are when you guys debate the official state dessert, or flower, or dog. A bill that will, if successful, single-handedly result in more deaths from motor vehicle crashes, increased hospital welfare debt and greater reliance on public assistance is an outrage.

The proclaimed issue of personal choice is a smokescreen as far as seat belts are concerned. Republican Sen. Roger Katz summed it up nicely when he stated during a public hearing: “My personal right to extend my fist ends at your nose.”

Rick Petrie is a paramedic who has worked in emergency medical services for more than 30 years. He is employed as the executive director of Atlantic Partners Emergency Medical Services, works as a paramedic at United Ambulance, and serves as the trauma manager for the Maine Trauma Advisory Committee. He lives in Minot.

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