Scare campaign

The tone of the “Click It or Ticket” public service announcements saturating local television and radio is scary enough to make drivers strap into the passenger-side seat belt as well as their own.

“It came out of nowhere,” a distraught teen in one spot laments after being pulled over for nothing more than not buckling up. The message cautions motorists that patrols are on the prowl exclusively for seat belt scofflaws. “It doesn’t matter where you drive — if you don’t buckle up, you will get caught. Cops are cracking down all across the country.”

Except in Nevada. The Nanny State and the Police State haven’t fully forged their authoritarian union in the Silver State — not yet, at least. In Nevada, you can drive from Goodsprings to Gerlach without wearing your seat belt and never worry about being pulled over, as long as you follow every other traffic law on the books.

Seat-belt use is, by law, a secondary violation in Nevada. So if a trooper or officer flashes his lights, forces you to the curb and hands you only a seat-belt ticket, it’s the cop who’s breaking the law.

The spot was produced and paid for by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which hands out grant money with lots of strings attached. It’s only a matter of time before the federal government begins threatening states such as Nevada with the revocation of highway funding if they don’t make seat belt use a primary violation — even though such laws fail to increase seat belt use and merely give police carte blanche to pull over motorists for no reason. An estimated 92 percent of Nevada drivers already buckle up, according to the state, well above the national average.

Traci Pearl of Nevada’s Office of Traffic Safety, which handled the buys for the radio spots, said the state’s seat belt enforcement campaign runs through Sept. 24, in compliance with a federal mandate to, you know, look really hard for other reasons to fine drivers exercising personal freedom.

All of which serves to remind taxpayers that their federal masters aren’t about to let a state’s rights — or even the law — get in the way of a good scare campaign.

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