COLUMN — Why do people always hate life-saving inventions?
It is a longstanding American tradition to object to inventions that by and large save lives.
In the early 1980s Michigan Rep. David Hollister introduced a bill that would establish a fine for motorists who refused to buckle up. At the time, just 14% of Americans regularly wore seat belts, but people were so against the idea that Hollister received a wave of backlash including letters comparing him to Hitler.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seat belts have been known to reduce the risk of death among drivers and front-seat passengers by 45%. They also cut the risk of serious injury by about 50%.
But neither of those statistics nor hefty Click It or Ticket fines are reason enough for some drivers to make the connection. Motorists will cite everything from discomfort to pure laziness when explaining why they choose not to use this simple, life-saving device. This is evident even locally, as a quick Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles interactive crash data report tells us approximately 77% of all fatal car accidents in Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland counties in 2020 involved a person not wearing a seat belt.
People have also been known to fight fiercely for their right to sustain serious head injuries. The CDC cites that motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death in a motorcycle accident by about 37% and the risk of head injury by a whopping 69%.
Numbers like that won’t stop people either. According to a 2011 article by Alyssa Newcomb of ABC News, a New York motorcyclist died after crashing and hitting his head on the pavement during a ride to protest the state’s mandatory helmet law.
Opponents of helmet laws in the past have used the argument that cranium safety should be a personal choice that isn’t government regulated, especially as the only person it puts at risk is the rider.
But that argument doesn’t take into consideration the psychological trauma forced upon any person who witnesses an accident with no helmet involved.
Yes, it appears some people aren’t big fans of protecting their own lives. But what about protecting the lives of others?
That’s not a good enough reason either. For months we have known that face masks can keep COVID-positive people — including people who don’t yet know they’re positive — from transmitting the virus to others.
But Americans can’t be asked to do something as patriotic and selfless as not spreading a deadly virus to one another. Yes, even the chance to prevent a dangerous virus from spreading through society isn’t a good enough reason for some people to mask up.
The National Safety Council estimates approximately 38,000 Americans died in car crashes in 2019. The country has lost more than 450,000 people due to COVID-19 in the year we’ve been battling this horrible virus. That’s practically a year’s worth of car crash deaths for every month of the pandemic we’ve endured.
But just like people have refused to buckle up and to put on a helmet, people will continue to refuse to wear a face mask.
They will argue day and night that it’s a matter of personal choice, that the government shouldn’t be in everybody’s business. But the truth is that some Americans just don’t like being told what to do. Their egos are too big. Their sense of self-importance is too high. Many are shortsighted, defensive and don’t care about the repercussions of their actions.
It doesn’t matter what the statistics say. It doesn’t matter the lives that could be saved. Some will always cry the seat belt hurts their stomach or that they are afraid of crashing into a lake and drowning because they were buckled in the car. The helmet makes their head hot and limits peripheral vision. The mask fogs up their glasses.
It’s the same reason people have opposed vaccines, sunscreen and smoking sections. It’s the reason why people will continue to die from easily preventable illnesses and accidents.
It’s the American way to object to life-saving inventions.
Alexa Massey is a staff reporter for The Charlotte Gazette and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Alexa.Massey@TheCharlotteGazette.com.