Belting in the symptoms

Last month, emergency physician and Alberta Centre for Injury Control Chair Louis Francescutti proposed a new solution to combat Albertans’ flare for not wearing their seat belts. Citing high incidence of severe injury requiring long-term treatment, Francescutti suggests patients suffering from car accidents who did not wear their seat belts pay for a part, if not all, of the full medical bill. Alberta Minister of Health Gary Mar called this proposal an “interesting idea. We should look into it.”

Why stop there? There are lots of other injuries brought to the hospital emergency room–some in epidemic numbers–that deserve the same consideration. Yes, make these seat belt criminals pay for their care, and let’s set pay scalethat follows suit.

Seat belt use is an important issue to address, but some seat belts are inadequate. Drivers whose cars only have lap belts, and not three-point systems (with the shoulder strap), should receive a bill for, let’s

say, 50 per cent of their required care. Although they will fare better than no seat belt at all, driving an old car is no excuse to compromise

one’s safety. Further, cars without air bags should see drivers pay

30 per cent of their bill, and up

to 40 per cent if those air bags are first-generation.

Small cars in general are a hazard. If a truck or, god forbid, a SUV hits them, they should have 60 per cent of their bill to answer for. SUV drivers should get a discount in this case, since their large vehicles reduce their chance of injury tremendously. Although, if they roll their SUV due to the vehicles’ high centre of gravity, they should pay it all. Fair’s fair.

Winter drivers, those of us who dare brave the icy Calgary streets, should pay all of their bill. After all, it should be no surprise when your car slips of the side of the Calf Rope Bridge. However, if you hit someone else–especially a pedestrian–you should pay three quarters of their bill. The pedestrian, on the other hand, should pay 50 per cent of their bill–crossing an icy street during a white-out is just asking to be struck down or pinned against a guard rail.

Babies shouldn’t be covered at all. They’re so frail.

If you’re talking on a cell phone in your car and slam headfirst into a light post, maybe you should pay 85 per cent of your long-term care. The person on the other end should pick up the rest of the tab, with an extra fine if they placed the call.

Women doing makeup as they merge onto Deerfoot should be stuck with half their bill.

These are all great ideas and would solve a lot of problems, especially within the health care system. After we legislate every car-related injury or death, we should branch into eating, sports, hunting and basically anything

that may cost the system. Or maybe we should look at the real problem: enforcement and education. After

all, breaking bad habits does more for the system than punishing the injured when it’s too late.

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