Roadblock Checkpoints Snare Many Citizens, Generate Nanny State Funds
By Mike Hudson
While your chances of surviving a serious automobile accident increase by just 4 percent if you’re wearing a seatbelt, police agencies in Niagara County and all across the United States use their mandated use as a pretext to stop hundreds of thousands of motorists for no other reason each year.
The Niagara Falls City Police Dept. the county Sheriff’s Dept. and the state police are all enthusiastic participants in the federally funded “Click It or Ticket” campaigns, which are staged around holidays like Memorial Day.
“Seat belts save thousands of lives every year, but far too many motorists are still not buckling up,” said Superintendent DalPorto. “We want everyone to have a safe summer, but it requires an important step on the part of motorists – clicking that seat belt.”
But the numbers belie DalPorto’s statement. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s own figures, just 52 percent of the 21,253 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2011 were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash.
That means that 48 percent of the dead were wearing their seatbelts at the time they were killed, a difference of just 4 percent, or fewer than 1,000 individuals out of an American population of more than 300 million people.
Niagara Falls resident Alvin Kiesinger fell victim to the aggressive law enforcement tactics last Wednesday evening at a roadblock set up by city police at the intersection of Pine Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard around 5 p.m.
“Traffic was backed way up going both ways,” Kiesinger told the Niagara Falls Reporter. “At first I thought there’d been an accident.”
When he finally got to the front of the line, Kiesinger – who was wearing his seat belt – thought he was almost home. The inspecting police officer, however, had different ideas.
“I had my cell phone on my lap and he told me I was being ticketed for talking on it,” Kiesinger said. “I told him I hadn’t been talking on it, that if he thought I was he could just look at it and see the time I used it last, but he didn’t want to hear it.”
Police running these roadblocks are trained to look for any infraction, no matter how minor. They sniff for the smell of alcohol, try to determine whether a motorist’s eyes are glassy, peer into ashtrays in search of evidence of contraband and visually inspect inspection stickers, driver licenses, head and tail lights.
Kiesinger and a large number of other motorists were directed into the main parking lot inside Hyde Park to be formally charged with various offenses.
“That’s a big parking lot and it was just full, literally,” he said. “I had to drive around and look for a spot. It was 45 minutes before anyone even came over to see me.”
Talking on a cell phone while driving carries a fine and costs totaling $185 in New York State, but Kiesinger said he wants to fight the ticket.
“I don’t know how, but I just want to be heard, you know? Nobody that was there that night was listening to anything,” he said.
A more targeted sort of roadblock was staged by state police, Orchard Park and Hamburg police following a motorcycle blessing event held on May 19 at the McKinley Mall in Hamburg.
According to witnesses, officers blocked off both ends of 20A as well as side streets between and stopped every motorcyclist who came through.
“We were targeted for inspection stickers, registration, helmets and pipes. There was no escape,” said one biker who asked to not be identified. “It was a total money grabbing event for the towns and state.”
Like the seat belt law, the helmet law places limits on personal freedom for a benefit to society that can best be described as dubious.
“The helmet thing is crazy. Who are we hurting?” the biker asked. “No one but ourselves if we get hurt. We’re not on government assistance, and I'm sure we have our own health insurance. So what is that costing the state?”
Deaths associated with motorists not using seat belts or motorcyclists not wearing helmets may not be costing the state anything, but they are an affront to the nanny state mentality that thinks it can decide better than grown, taxpaying citizens of the United States what is best for them.
How often have we heard in recent decades that if this or that law could “just save one life,” it would be worth passing regardless of how much personal freedom it strips away or the inconvenience it causes to untold numbers of others?
Quite simply, our free will and individual liberty are under attack by a government that seeks to control everything from how we eat to our personal morality.
Demagogues like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would ban sugary sodas, fatty foods and the freedom of people to smoke cigarettes in their own homes.
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Bloomberg supporter and Bowdoin College professor Sarah Conly summed up the nanny state position.
“Giving up a little liberty is something we agree to when we agree to live in a democratic society that is governed by laws,” she wrote. “(S)ometimes we need to be stopped from doing foolish stuff…”
And the way we “need to be stopped from doing foolish stuff” -- in the minds of people like Bloomberg and Conly – is by armed police officers. They don’t like to admit it, but that’s what it always gets down to.
All this is lost on law enforcement officials, who see their powers expand as more and more laws are passed criminalizing smaller and smaller infractions.
“As we kick-off the busy summer driving season it’s important that everyone buckles up every time they go out, both day and night – no excuses,” DalPorto is quoted in a press release sent to local media outlets “Our officers are prepared to ticket anyone who is not wearing their seat belt – Click It or Ticket.”
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
May 28, 2013