Perhaps it was the extra $11 million in federal highway funds that convinced a narrow majority of members of the Kentucky House to pass legislation allowing police to stop and ticket motorists not wearing seat belts. The bill also requires children under age 16 to wear helmets while riding all-terrain vehicles, even on farms.
Perhaps the 48-45 House vote hinged on some of those expensive projects spread from Pikeville to Paducah in the new $18 billion budget.
Or perhaps a simple majority of representatives decided, after too many years and too many deaths in car and ATV crashes, to do the right thing on seat belts and helmets.
Whatever the motivation, the bill now goes to Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who has long been a supporter of a bill allowing police to cite motorists not buckled up.
The stronger state seat-belt law will produce that much-needed $11 million in federal transportation funds for Kentucky. It also will save the lives of 60 motorists this year, according to bill supporters.
Of course, there were all the usual arguments from opponents that boil down to a simple creed that the individual has a right to be stupid without government interference.
That sounds fine until you consider that those stupid acts not wearing a seat belt or a helmet end up costing everyone in Kentucky money when the unbelted or unhelmeted victims of crashes must be taken care of, often for the rest of their lives. The taxpayers usually end up paying the bills.
So the taxpayers have a solid reason for requiring motorists and ATV riders to take reasonable precautions to protect themselves in the event of an accident. Since seat belts come attached with cars, the bill wont even cost motorists, and the cost of a helmet is considerably less than the cost of a coffin.
Now the General Assembly has agreed to put public safety first and the interests of Kentucky taxpayers over people who do stupid things.
No matter the reason, its about time.