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One Helmet and One Belt

In April 2020, the “One Helmet and One Belt” security protection operation was carried out across the country. During the operation, the public security traffic control department will strengthen law enforcement management, and investigate and rectify the behavior of motorcycle and electric bicycle riders not wearing safety helmets and car drivers not using seat belts in accordance with the law, so as to promote the development of safety habits. On May 20, 2020, the Ministry of Public Security requested that the penalty range from June 1 on is limited to riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet.

As soon as the news came out, motorcycle helmets became a hot-selling product and their value skyrocketed. This phenomenon was complained by netizens

Indeed, our first reaction when we heard the news might be “rejection”. People are disgusted with things or things that restrict themselves. But in fact, the “Road Traffic Safety Law” has already clearly stipulated that when driving a motorcycle inside, drivers and passengers should wear safety helmets as required. Those who do not wear a safety helmet in accordance with the regulations will be punished with 2 points and a fine of 200 yuan.

This policy is undoubtedly beneficial to us. Wearing a helmet will greatly reduce the death rate of non-motor vehicle accidents, but there are also voices of opposition, “It is my personal freedom to wear a helmet or not. I have not hindered others, so I cannot Force me to wear a helmet”. So as long as one’s actions do not hinder or affect others, then one has complete freedom within this scope, and other people and the government must not interfere? the answer is negative.

Let us first use the original logic to analyze this law: Is it reasonable for my country to formulate traffic laws? The answer is beyond doubt. Speeding, running red lights, merging solid lines, etc. are forbidden. Drivers have the right to drive freely, but this right to drive freely must not hinder or cause danger to others. Running a red light is easy to hit passers-by, and solid lines may cause collisions and rear-end collisions. Therefore, the government has formulated corresponding traffic regulations. Drivers must drive freely within the legal limits, otherwise they will be punished.

However, wearing a helmet does not apply this logic: whether wearing a helmet or not, it will not affect others at all. Even in the event of an accident, the driver himself will be protected, and in any case will not hinder or put others in danger.

So why can the law force a person to interfere in his way of life when he is not influencing others?

This involves “legal paternalism” in legislative principles.

To understand the meaning of “legal paternalism” in a literal sense: This doctrine assumes that the government is a more rational and well-meaning parent, and therefore has a certain right to interfere with children (citizens). However, this right of interference is strictly limited: only when a matter imposes a very small burden on citizens, but has great benefits to citizens or can prevent them from great risks, then legislation is in the position of legal parent Only those who can force citizens to undertake this obligation.

The same is true of forcing drivers to wear seat belts.

Specific to the relevant provisions of Article 51 of my country’s “Road Traffic Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China”, the legislator believes that wearing a helmet will bring very little extra burden to drivers, but it will bring great benefits to drivers. Wearing a helmet is just a “lift of hands”, but in the event of an accident, this “lift of hands” may pull us back from death.

At the same time, the Traffic Management Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security officially released a Weibo stating that it will strictly investigate the illegal behavior of helmet prices.