According to statistics compiled by the New York Times this Sunday, the United States was the leader in motor vehicle safety...in 1970. However, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has moved from that number one slot to the not-so-distinguished spot of 42nd out of 48 industrialized nations. This, despite the fact cars have gotten significantly more safe since 37 years ago.
So is the problem higher speeds? Nope, other countries ranked lower have higher or have speeds as high as those found here. Is the problem crazy-ass kids? Maybe — we're probably not training our kids too well but even so, Australia invented the word "hoon" and they've got a lower rate of death per 100,000 than the United States has. So what is it?
Well, according to the Times it's that lovable rascal, the Constitution's tenth amendment. Yup, that's right — it's Federalism. We've got a patchwork quilt of laws as rules and regulations here in the United States are enacted on a state-by-state level, and not by uniform federal decree.
"So while the governments of other countries can easily pass laws to make driving safer, like a national ban on hand-held cellphone use, those laws here are left up to the states to impose, and that is often not so easy."
So that means you're able to have a state like New Hampshire decide to reject a bill for mandatory seat-belt use by adults for "personal freedom" reasons. Or, as New Hampshire State Senator Robert E. Clegg Jr. put it:
"The citizens of New Hampshire don't like to be told by anyone else what to do."
Don't get me wrong, we totally heart Federalism. But come on New Hampshire, get with the program — wearing your seat belt's just the smart thing to do. But whatevs, God bless America and our founding fathers for helping us make a country that both holds our freedoms dear, and our idiots high and mighty. [New York Times]