Feb 26, 2015 5:37 PM

NH1 News Investigates: Live Free or Die, should adults have to buckle up?


CONCORD- Live free or die. It's the first thing you see as you drive across the border into New Hampshire, but are we taking it too literally?

New Hampshire is the only state in the country without an adult seat belt law.

According to State Police, in 2014 30 people who died on New Hampshire roads were not wearing seat belts. There were 16 fatal crashes where the person was buckled in.

Former lawmaker Sally Kelly was in a near fatal accident in 2009, just six months after legislation for a seat belt law failed.

"I absolutely would not be here right now if it wasn't for that seat belt. Because I was on that seat belt commission, I started wearing the seat belt 100 percent of the time," Kelly said.

Kelly's seat belt may have saved her life, but do we need a law telling us we have to buckle up? It's something many Granite Staters, like Jonathan O'Sullivan feel is their personal choice.

"If I don't choose to wear a seat belt well that's not really your problem. It's my problem, it's my life. It goes against the Live Free or Die motto of the state," O'Sullivan said.

Live Free or Die Alliance is a non-partisan group, they held an online survey this month. They found 90 percent of those surveyed oppose a seat belt mandate. Those opposed believe it's their choice, some saying they wear a seat belt, but don't feel there needs to be a law telling them to do so. Those who support a law believe it would promote safety.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, only 68 percent of Granite Staters say they wear their seat belt, compared to the national average of 84 percent.

Before her crash, Kelly didn't always wear her seat belt. She even voted against a seat belt law in 2007. She says she understands the freedom of the choice, but has now seen how your choice can affect others. The other driver in her crash was not wearing his seat belt.

"He not only did not have a seat belt on. But he did not have car insurance, he did not have health insurance. So when people talk about the independence of making that choice. He made that choice, but you and I paid for it," Kelly said.

Those in favor of a law say the state could save a million dollars a year on medical costs. It's a topic many in New Hampshire are passionate about, more than 400 people responded to Live Free or Die Alliance's post online.

"I think it's more the power behind the choice, to choose not to. More than being told hey you need to do this, so maybe it's an act of defiance," O'Sullivan said.

No legislative action has been taken on this since 2009. Even though it failed, it changed Kelly's outlook on choosing to wear a seat belt.

"When you chose not to wear a seat belt that is a very selfish act. If you have one person in the world who cares about you, it's a very selfish act," Kelly said.


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