I strongly urge our Legislature not to change the seat belt law. Study after study confirms that seat belts save lives, largely because they are designed to work with air bags.

I can also speak from experience. A decade ago, another driver ran a red light, crashed into my car and totaled it. Had I not been wearing my seat belt, he would also have totaled me.

Perhaps some people still think that they are in control of their vehicle and that accidents always happen to someone else. That’s what I thought, too, but that all changed in a split second, making me realize that the unpredictable can occur without enough time to take precautions. No matter how quickly I reacted during the crash, I could not have moved fast enough to buckle up and prevent being thrown from my vehicle or propelled through my own windshield.

Finally, there may be those who equate not wearing seat belts with some kind of personal freedom, but the only freedom involved is the freedom to cause injury and even death for yourself as well as suffering and loss for your family, not to mention extensive hospital stays and staggering medical bills. This is not freedom in any sense of the word — it’s simply being irresponsible.

Don Loprieno

Bristol

State Sens. Elizabeth Schneider, D-Orono, and Ronald Collins, R-Wells, deserve thanks for their proposal to scale back the manadatory seat belt law. The senators are doing their jobs to protect the rights of Maine citizens granted under the U.S. Constitution. Their vision towards the rights of all, as opposed to simply the individual, as well as resisting pressure from special interests (insurance companies) is a breath of fresh air. Reducing the state’s current mandatory seat belt law to a secondary offense is a step in the right direction, but eliminating the law completely has additional merit. They should continue to push to eliminate this law.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by federal law enforcement agents. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution imposes the Fourth Amendment upon the states and to law enforcement agents within the states.

I agree, lives are saved by wearing seat belts, but it is not within the government’s right or interest to force its citizens to comply with a law that is completely the choice of the individual and that does not infringe upon others’ safety or rights. These are actions that individuals need to take responsibility for on their own.

In a free society where more and more of our individual rights are being peeled away, this is a sign of hope. Public officials who are concerned about the lost revenue from associated seat belt fines need to rethink their purpose.

Chip Coupal

York

Public and private union workers are under attack

Across the country, the rights of working people are under attack. Using budget crises as a pretext, union bashers have gone on the offensive. Private-sector unions, they say, insist on pointless work rules that prevent businesses from making the profits on which job-creation depends.

Public-sector union members, with their lavish salaries, bloated pensions and Cadillac health care plans, are bankrupting states and local governments.

They insist that the only way to balance budgets and create good jobs is to take away workers’ rights to organize and negotiate for benefits and working conditions.

Here in Maine, two major anti-union initiatives are in the works. The governor’s budget would increase the pension share paid by teachers and state workers and cut benefits for retirees in order to fund tax breaks for businesses and the wealthiest Mainers.

So-called “right-to-work” legislation would deprive unions of the ability to make non-members pay so-called representation fees — their fair share of the expenses of negotiating and enforcing union contracts.

ACSUM, the union representing all clerical, office, laboratory and technical workers in the University of Maine System, opposes both these initiatives and disputes the claims of the union-bashers who make them.

We know that in a knowledge-based economy, economic prosperity depends on educational excellence. You can’t achieve educational excellence without respecting educators and educational support staff. If you respect them, treat them like grown-ups. Support their rights to organize democratically, to advocate for public education, to bargain collectively on wages and working conditions.

If you agree with us, we urge you to show your support for the hardworking, taxpaying folks who staff schools, community colleges, University of Maine campuses and Cooperative Extension offices all across the state of Maine by wearing “red for public ed” today.

Jim Bradley

State President, ACSUM

Mechanic Falls

Sen. Collins shares constituent’s concerns

I was surprised to read a recent letter written by Gary Phillips suggesting that Sen. Susan Collins has ignored concerns he raised in letters to her (“Quest for political civility falls short from the start,” March 3). In fact, since 2006 Sen. Collins has responded to his letters 12 times, and members of her staff have spoken with him on numerous occasions. In one letter, Mr. Phillips even thanked her for the responsiveness of her offices.

Sen. Collins shares his belief that the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision unfairly penalize retired public employees in states like Maine.

Working with Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Collins has led efforts in the Senate to repeal or modify these laws, holding hearings and authoring legislation to help ensure individuals receive the Social Security benefits that they have earned. Her efforts, unfortunately, have been met with much resistance.

Nevertheless, the senator continues to work to remedy this inequity and she intends to introduce another bill in this new Congress.

Jen Burita, Deputy Chief of Staff

Office of Sen. Susan Collins

Washington