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Archive for Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lives, money lost

Failure to pass a primary seat belt law this year will cost Kansas both in terms of lives and federal highway money.

May 27, 2009

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Over the Memorial Day weekend, the nation’s airwaves were filled with messages about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign, which emphasized increased enforcement of seat belt laws.

In 29 states, law enforcement officers can pull someone over and give him or her a ticket for not wearing a seat belt — but not in Kansas. Here, not wearing a seat belt is not a “primary” offense for which someone can be stopped. People who aren’t wearing seat belts can be ticketed, but only if they are involved in an accident or pulled over for speeding or some other offense.

A primary seat belt law was passed by the Kansas Senate this year but was rejected by the House. That decision not only cost the state an estimated 30 lives each year but also about $11.2 million in federal highway funds.

States that enacted a primary seat belt law by June 30 will be eligible for one-time federal payments to be used for education programs and highway projects. In Kansas, about $1 million would have been used for education and the remaining money for highways. Several states, including Florida, Minnesota and Arkansas decided the combination of increased safety and more highway funds was too good a deal to pass up — but not Kansas.

Maybe you can blame it on the state’s populist roots. Those who opposed the law contend that Kansas adults ought to be able to decide for themselves whether they want to wear a seat belt. It’s the same rationale that applies to the law that doesn’t require adult motorcyclists to wear helmets: They aren’t hurting anyone but themselves so it should be their choice. The problem is, they already can be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt; they just can’t be stopped purely for that offense.

The other argument against the law was that it would give the state’s law enforcement officers another reason to practice racial profiling. People of color already are more likely to be pulled over by police for minor traffic offenses, opponents said, and a seat belt law would only increase that disparity. That may be true, but the answer is to address racial profiling directly, not shy away from or eliminate potentially life-saving laws.

The numbers really tell this story. In a news release earlier this year, Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller noted that two-thirds of people killed on Kansas roads were not wearing seat belts. Based on the experience of other states, Kansas would expect to raise its seat belt usage from its current 77 percent to about 87 percent. The bottom line is that a primary seat belt law would prevent an estimated 30 highway deaths and 300 serious injuries a year — not to mention the gain of more than $10 million in highway funding.

Kansas is proud to be a populist state, but it’s hard to understand why state legislators would take a pass on a measure that would pay the state so handsomely for saving lives.

Comments

Jonathan Becker 5 years, 6 months ago

Is there some kind of requirement that you not have an IQ to be in the Kansas Legislature? How can you look at $11.2 million and say, "Nope, not for me."

The L-J World could do a big service by giving us the voting record of local legislators, both Senate and House, on this question.

Seat belts save lives. If one of the primary purposes of government is security, this is a no-brainer, which in Kansas seems to be a legislative requirement.

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

Slowponder -

The name you need to know is Gary Hayzlett. He's the House committee chairman who prevented this bill from being heard in full and pretty much single-handedly killed the measure.

It's my right to not wear a seat belt. It's your privilege to pay for increased insurance costs and my children as wards of the state when I get my stupid arse killed because I just couldn't stand the government telling me what to do...

(That's the mentality of people who oppose this measure.)

TriSigmaKS 5 years, 6 months ago

This is so ridiculous, seat belts....easy to use, save so many lives. To reject that is ridiculous, especially when millions for education and improvements are at stake.

truman1902 5 years, 6 months ago

Let's go over this one more time..Gaming $$$$$$$$$$ tossed aside in the name of morality..Highway funds told to take a flying leap, while we tout our "independence" from Mother Fed...ANOTHER budget shortfall looming large next session..

Both houses would MUCH rather wield an AX to state funding, than raise capital and avoid another showdown with state agencies in the coming months..Hey, out there in HUGOTON, NESS CITY---IS ANYONE HOME?? HELMET?? I'm an ASPHALT COWBOY!! I DON'T NEED TO BE WEARIN' NO DAMN SEAT BELT!! GEEZ!!

50YearResident 5 years, 6 months ago

What is "Click it or Ticket"? There must be some kind of law in place...or there would be no "Ticket"

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 6 months ago

I agree with sinverguenza, we all pay when people choose not to buckle up. I've lost several friends who died in car accidents in which seat belts would have likely saved their lives.

kansastruthteller 5 years, 6 months ago

There is a little thing called the bill of rights and the 10th amendment. The federal government has limited powers and those powers not specifically provide for in the Constitution as federal powers belong to the states.

The Constitution does provide for the federal government being able to mandate seat belt laws so to circumvent that small detail, our federal government takes our tax dollars and then holds them hostage to get us to pass a law they have no power to pass.

Yes, seat belts are a good idea, but circumventing the Constitution, even for a good idea, is wrong. Our legislature was right to reject the money.

kansastruthteller 5 years, 6 months ago

There is a little thing called the bill of rights and the 10th amendment. The federal government has limited powers and those powers not specifically provide for in the Constitution as federal powers belong to the states.

The Constitution does not provide for the federal government being able to mandate seat belt laws so to circumvent that small detail, our federal government takes our tax dollars and then holds them hostage to get us to pass a law they have no power to pass.

Yes, seat belts are a good idea, but circumventing the Constitution, even for a good idea, is wrong. Our legislature was right to reject the money.

levicircle2 5 years, 6 months ago

On the Constitutional angle, KTT has it exactly correct.

On the common sense side, think this over. There is already a law that you're supposed to wear seatbelts. You can get a ticket for NOT wearing a seatbelt. The only difference in what the current law is and the proposed law is that police could pull you over SIMPLY for not wearing a seatbelt.

Let's ignore for the moment those representatives (most of which had a "D" next to party affiliation) who were against this bill because they felt it would lead to harassment of some citizens by law enforcement.

Let's instead try to figure out the logic of those who claim that this proposed law would have saved a single additional life. To follow this logic, one must believe that the passengers in a car that are currently ignoring the current law requiring seat belt use WOULD follow the proposed law requiring seat belt use.

Why would they? If they ignore one law, why makes anyone believe that they would follow a nearly identical law?

Seat belt use is a good thing. However, even ignoring the blackmail being attempted and the likelihood of increased abuse of police powers, it is not the least bit logical to believe that those who ignore current law would suddenly have their IQ's raised by another law. The legislature acted correctly.

scott3460 5 years, 6 months ago

"Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller noted that two-thirds of people killed on Kansas roads were not wearing seat belts."

Does that not suggest 2/3 of Kansans do not support this silly law?

cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 6 months ago

If you don't wear your seatbelt, you have a much larger chance of dying than if you do wear it.

We cannot make people acknowladge this fact. Even if they do acknowladge it, it is not within the power of our government to force them to act on it.

Expanding police power is not the answer. Will they now be able to impound cars as they can in drug and prostitution arrests since the vehicle was used in the comission of a crime? I realize that this is not the case, but with legislation like this the door is open at the very least.

If you choose not to wear a seatbelt and then you die in a horrible death that could have been prevented by a strip of fabric, then that is your right.

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

kansastruthteller:

Please explain to us the difference between a law that states you can be pulled over for speeding and a law that states you can be pulled over for not wearing your seat belt. Do you feel that when you get pulled over for speeding, your Constitutional rights are being violated?

Seems to me both laws are government intrusion if that's the way you want to look at it. It also seems that Kansas is OK with some laws that are designed to protect lives and simply not OK with others. So what's the reasoning?

Driving is a privilege, not a right. If it were a right, we wouldn't require compliance with any of those pesky little traffic safety laws or drivers' licenses.

And just FYI, my profession does not allow me to share my views on the law in this kind of forum. But regardless of how I feel about the law, I believe your logic is flawed.

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

scott3460 (Anonymous) says…

“Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller noted that two-thirds of people killed on Kansas roads were not wearing seat belts.”

Does that not suggest 2/3 of Kansans do not support this silly law?


No, Scott. What that means is that 2/3 of the people killed were not wearing seat belts. That stat only considers the people who died, and implies nothing about public opinion on the primary enforcement law.

scott3460 5 years, 6 months ago

"It's your privilege to pay for increased insurance costs and my children as wards of the state when I get my stupid arse killed because I just couldn't stand the government telling me what to do…"

You have proof, of course, And that supposed cost is, of course, less than the costs of maintaining a fleet of officers and vehicles to harrass us in to obedience. And insurance costs, of course, have declined wherever such laws have been imposed by the insurance companies (which seem to profit nicely from lower risk, but who never seem to lower prices or provide greater benefits.)

cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 6 months ago

"Please explain to us the difference between a law that states you can be pulled over for speeding and a law that states you can be pulled over for not wearing your seat belt. "

A person is pulled over for speeding because the speeding is a danger to others. Not wearing a seatbelt is only a danger to the driver. You are correct, both are government intrusions. However, the difference is that one is designed to preseve driver's rights to life and liberty without being smeared by a speeder, and the other is an attempt to gain control over a decision that does not affect or endanger anyone except the person making it.

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

levicircle2 (Anonymous) says…

To follow this logic, one must believe that the passengers in a car that are currently ignoring the current law requiring seat belt use WOULD follow the proposed law requiring seat belt use.

Why would they? If they ignore one law, why makes anyone believe that they would follow a nearly identical law?


They would be more likely to follow that law because they would be more likely to face consequences for not following it.

Come on people, how many laws do you follow because you like to follow them? It's more likely that the majority of the laws you abide by, you do so because you don't want to face the consequences of being caught breaking that law (I'm not talking about morality laws like not stealing or killing, but all the other crap).

Same thing with speeding. If it was the law that you have to drive under 70 mph, but you knew you couldn't be pulled over and ticketed for it, you're more likely to break that law. Knowing that driving 90 mph is likely to get you pulled over and ticketed is one of the main reasons people don't drive 90 mph. Similarly, knowing that being seen without a seat belt on is likely to get you pulled over and ticketed is one of the main reasons people wear their seat belts (as noted by the increase in seat belt usage after passage of primary laws in every state that has done so).

Comprehensive research has shown that primary enforcement laws increase the seat belt use around 10 percent. This same research also shows that minorities (who would most likely face the risk of increased police profiling) are actually more in favor of the law than whites.

http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/New-fact-sheet03/SeatBeltLaws.pdf

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

cthulhu_4_president (Anonymous) says…

"Not wearing a seatbelt is only a danger to the driver."

WRONG. First you must consider other passengers in the car. Anyone in a car not wearing a seat belt is more likely to harm other passengers in the car than those who are wearing their seat belts.

Secondly, you must consider the financial implications of the driver not wearing a seat belt. According to the research, 85 percent of crash costs are absorbed by society. While you may not consider covering the cost of someone else's stupidity a danger, surely you consider it an infringement on your right to save money.

When a person is severely injured in a car crash and can't work, the rest of us taxpayers pick up the tab. When a person is killed in a car crash and leaves behind children to care for, the rest of us taxpayers pick up the tab.

Lastly, you must consider the social implications. Every crash fatality is a person that's leaving family, friends, employers and others behind to deal with that loss. Again, that's not a "danger" to society, but it's certainly something we'd like to do everything in our power to avoid.

Janet Lowther 5 years, 6 months ago

This is a fine example of bad law.

Every time a police officer tickets, charges, or even just stops a citizen who does not feel he is doing anything wrong, he reduces the condemnatory power of all law, and respect for the police as well, both of which are on precarious ground.

You will note that this is yet another example of the Federal government attempting to intrude into an area over which they have absolutely no authority by resorting to bribery. Yes, bribery. Payment to take government action is bribery even if the bribe maker is the Federal government and recipient is a state government.

Further, there is the strictly practical matter that there are some circumstances under which seat belts can cause serious injuries: To be safe, seat belts must be snugly secured across the hips. When you are wearing a big fluffy parka, there is no way to get that seat belt snug with the modern automatic adjusting mechanism. When I'm wearing my parka with a whole pound of down, I'd rather trust the air bag than risk the internal injuries caused by a too loose seat belt.

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

jrlii -

You're certainly correct on the bribery part. But I suggest you research air bags, as your current view on how they work is likely to get you killed.

Air bags + seat belt = safety device. Air bags - seat belt = broken body.

If you're concerned about saving your life, I suggest you take off the parka and put on the seat belt.

If you're going to ignore the effectiveness of seat belts, you're ignoring science. Simple physics can explain why you are more likely to survive most crashes if you just put your seat belt on.

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

Scott -

We don't have to maintain a fleet of officers to harass us into obedience. The law enforcement out there issuing the tickets would be the same law enforcement we have now.

You're certainly right about how insurance costs go down in states that have primary enforcement, but you say it like it's a bad thing. What's up with that?

cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 6 months ago

"WRONG. First you must consider other passengers in the car."

If they are adult of sound mind, then they are free to not wear seatbelts too, I believe. My statement is still correct.

"Anyone in a car not wearing a seat belt is more likely to harm other passengers in the car than those who are wearing their seat belts."

What does this mean? How do you know? Honestly curious here. I think I know what the point is, but I will see if you want to phrase this better.

"Secondly, you must consider the financial implications of the driver not wearing a seat belt. According to the research, 85 percent of crash costs are absorbed by society. "

What "research"? What are your sources?

"While you may not consider covering the cost of someone else's stupidity a danger, surely you consider it an infringement on your right to save money."

Again, this is nonsensical. My "right to save money" (if there is such a thing) is violated every time I pay sales tax. Also, what will seatbelt legislation do to increase or decrease the "cost to society" that you speak of outside of some unpredictable hypothetical scenerio?

"When a person is severely injured in a car crash and can't work, the rest of us taxpayers pick up the tab. When a person is killed in a car crash and leaves behind children to care for, the rest of us taxpayers pick up the tab."

I agree. I'm not sure what this has to do with seatbelt legislation since none of us can know if the amount of money that might be saved if this is enacted?

"Lastly, you must consider the social implications. Every crash fatality is a person that's leaving family, friends, employers and others behind to deal with that loss. Again, that's not a “danger” to society, but it's certainly something we'd like to do everything in our power to avoid."

Just because we would like to avoid it doesn't mean the government should have the power to regulate it. By this logic, the government would ban McDonalds and fast food since heart disease is the number 1 killer of American citizens. How much heartache is caused and loved ones left behind due to cholesterol?

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

Let me see if I can rephrase it better and give you (a ridiculously dramatic, I admit) video to illustrate the point.

http://www.advicecentral.org/articles/miscellaneous/no-seatbelt.-no-excuse.html

Scroll down and check out that video. As I said, it's a ridiculous dramatization, but people actually are injured by unbelted passengers. They pose a risk because unbelted, they become a flying projectile in the event of a crash.

Research documenting the financial cost to society has been conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SafeKids Worldwide, AAA, and numerous others. That's the research I'm talking about.

"Also, what will seatbelt legislation do to increase or decrease the “cost to society” that you speak of outside of some unpredictable hypothetical scenerio?"

Seat belt legislation decreases the cost to society because it reduces the number of people injured or killed in car crashes. It does this because people are more likely to buckle up if they fear facing consequences for not doing so, as earlier noted and as the implementation of said legislation in every other state has proven.

That is no "unpredictable hypothetical scenario."

On your last point about McDonald's, the same could be said for speeding laws - the first analogy I used.

So again, what's the difference between speeding laws and seat belt laws? How is one government intrusion and the other not, considering that both are designed to save lives and money?

cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 6 months ago

"Scroll down and check out that video. As I said, it's a ridiculous dramatization, but people actually are injured by unbelted passengers. They pose a risk because unbelted, they become a flying projectile in the event of a crash."

An interesting point. However, the rates of accidents and injuries involving people injured by other people who have become projectiles would need to be studied. Just because it's something bad that might happen doesn't mean that a law needs to be made around it.

"...........That's the research I'm talking about."

You are naming organizations. I am asking for a specific study or cited article which explains where your %85 number came from.

"It does this because people are more likely to buckle up if they fear facing consequences for not doing so"

This part of your explination is, actually, hypothetical, unless you have a source or research to back up this particular claim. As such, it seems to be beyond the realm of this discussion.

"On your last point about McDonald's, the same could be said for speeding laws "

I do not follow how my McDonald's example compares with your speeding analogy. They are not the same at all, unless my BigMac will somehow harm the person sitting next to me.

"How is one government intrusion and the other not, considering that both are designed to save lives and money?"

Again, speeding is a crime with clear cut victims, not just someone who could potentially become a victim if the person not wearing a seatbelt happens to become airborne. The act of speeding by itself is immediately hazardous to those around the speeder. The act of not wearing a seatbelt, is not immediately hazardous by any stretch of the imagination to anyone but the non-wearer.

gogoplata 5 years, 6 months ago

I called my represenative to ask him to vote against this. Its good to see freedom prevail. Now I wonder if we can repeal the law allowing cops to write any kind of seatbelt ticket?

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

Research on the cost to society: (Sorry, but I'm going to let you read it yourself rather than go all Merrill on the board with copy and paste.)

http://www.aaanewsroom.net/main/Default.asp?CategoryID=7&ArticleID=596

http://www.wsls.com/sls/news/national/article/teenager_car_crashses_cost_america_34_billion_according_to_aaa/8514/

http://www.nsc.org/partners/costs.aspx

http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/NewDriver/TeenBeltUse/pages/1Introduction.htm

"This part of your explination is, actually, hypothetical, unless you have a source or research to back up this particular claim. As such, it seems to be beyond the realm of this discussion."

Again, not hypothetical. The research proves that states that assume a primary enforcement law will see about a 10 percent increase in seat belt use on average.

I provided the research on this earlier. You can scroll back to the link at my comment at 11:10 a.m.

With concern to McDonald's you say, "Just because we would like to avoid it doesn't mean the government should have the power to regulate it."

And my point is that the government regulates a whole lot of things that perhaps it shouldn't have the power to regulate. But they do it. When it comes to speeding, you're OK with that. When it comes to seat belts, you are not.

Mind you - did you know what all else you can be pulled over for? You can be pulled over if your windows are tinted too darkly. You can be pulled over if it's raining and you don't have your wipers on. You can be pulled over if you don't use a turn signal. The list goes on and on.

Why are you OK with the police pulling you over because your windows are too dark (which hurts no one and costs no one), but not OK with the police pulling you over because your seat belt isn't on (which hurts you, if not your loved ones, and costs everyone in the event you get hurt)?

But you do have me on that last part. On the road, speeding has "clear cut victims" and for the most part, not wearing a seat belt does not. But the fact that the burdens, losses and costs aren't present on the roadway where the crash occurred when someone isn't wearing a seat belt is no reason to disregard the burden, loss and cost that does exist as a result of that crash.

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

One other thing - everyone opposed seems opposed in large part because they don't want the police to have another excuse to pull them over.

I think we all know that logic is flawed. If a cop wants to pull you over, he'll find a reason. They always do. Unfortunately, I know from experience.

Lastly, I'm proud of the Kansas spirit. Not so convinced by the Kansas logic, but proud of the spirit anyway. As I said earlier, I can't share my personal views on the law and what happened in the legislature. But I thought I would share the information and research that's out there with concern to seat belt use since I know it, and it seems many people do not. I hope someone finds the information useful, if not compelling.

I encourage people to wear their seat belts because it's safe, not because it's the law.

Nick Yoho 5 years, 6 months ago

being anonymous, sinverguenza, I would think you could share your views. personally, I'm not sure what to think of this. Freedom safety/ safety/freedom... oppression/ blackmail.... Hmmmm

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

Anonymous only applies when people you might work with don't know/couldn't figure out your screen name. That's why I stop short, Nick.

avoice 5 years, 6 months ago

In an ironic twist to this entire thread of debate, what is currently having the most impact on traffic fatalities is the reduction in the number of vehicles on the roads. Seatbelts are effective in reducing injuries and fatalities after the fact (the fact being that there has been a collision of a vehicle and another vehicle or other obstacle). It would be far more effective in saving lives to reduce crashes. Apparently, all we have to do to accomplish this is to lower speed limits and reduce the number of vehicles on the road (think: mass public transportation, such as commuter rail).

How about enticing states with federal funding if they lower the speed limits on the highways in their states? How about lowering the speed limits on all federal highways, if the desire is to lower the number of traffic fatalities and injuries? The added benefit to insurance companies (and the general public) would be less vehicle damage. Even when you save the people in the car wreck, you still have a wrecked car. Eliminate the wrecks and you save a lot more all the way around.

gogoplata 5 years, 6 months ago

I know lets lower the speed limit to 10 miles per hour. That would really put a dent in traffic fatalities. While we are at it lets pass a law that everyone who wants to go swimming must have a state issued swimming license.

I read the list of the leading cause of death in the US. Here is the top 5. Heart disease: 631,636 Cancer: 559,888 Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 137,119 Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 124,583 Accidents (unintentional injuries): 121,599 Hell the top 5 could be seriously reduced by diet and exercise so maybe we need an eating license or manditory nutrition classses with state imposed fines for a body mass index that is to high.

Come on feed the state. Feed it. Feed it. Feed it!!! The government can solve all our problems. After all it is the government that should be telling us how to live.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 6 months ago

If the government thinks we should all wear our seat belts always, then why don't they enact some legislation that forces car companies to render a car inoperable until the belt is clicked?
How about some of you militants stand outside of every store and harass people about wearing their seat belts. You can write down tag numbers and call the police every time you spot someone without it. until then, I'm gonna keep doing as I damned well please.

notajayhawk 5 years, 6 months ago

sinverguenza (Anonymous) says…

"They would be more likely to follow that law because they would be more likely to face consequences for not following it."

Even with the threat of dying, they don't buckle up. With the threats of crippling injuries or horrible disfigurement they don't buckle up. But the threat of getting a ticket will make them 'click it?'

Riiiiiiiight.

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

When will they get around to the law requiring everyone to wear a helmet at all times in case they fall down? And knee pads too. Should it be up to me to pay for your medical care if you trip over your bong, hit your head on the coffee table and go into a coma? NO WAY!

And the government also needs to begin restricting all activities that might be dangerous: bicycling, skydiving, showering. In fact, the government should lock us all up in nice little padded boxes so we can never ever be hurt. Maybe we can even get a teet to nourish us in our nice safe government-appoved safety boxes.

Nuts to that. I'm close to 50. I pay for my own insurance. I know when I need a seat belt and I know when I dont. I decide when I wear one. If I get a ticket, I'll pay the extortion with cash.

I refuse to surrender my right to decide what is and isn't dangerous to my person and become just another automaton doing what bureaucrats think I should because insurance companies have bribed them into loading the dice.

sinverguenza 5 years, 6 months ago

Why yes, let's ignore the research and defer to the wisdom of nota.

Riiiiiiight.

gogoplata 5 years, 6 months ago

It is not about whether seat belts save lives or not. It is about the fact that people should be able to decide for themselves if they want to wear one.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 6 months ago

Silly, silly responses. Seems to be a lot of hyperbole and just plain overreacting. I tried http://www.kslegislature.org/ and could not find a voting record. There should be a public record somewhere and my question would be, was the money rejected because someone does not like President Obama because he is black? If I can decide to eat ice cream, you can decide to not wear a belt and get yourself thrown though a windshield and splattered over the road. I would consider both decisions to be equal in scope.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 6 months ago

IRISH: "and my question would be, was the money rejected because someone does not like President Obama because he is black?"


WTF?! are you serious? how in the world did you get from personal rights to racism in all of this? I haven't thought about the president being black since he first walked on the scene. and that was because it was impossible to ignore. after all, the media was swooning all over itself to remind us minute by minute that we were all either really progressive or a bunch of racists. But i have to wonder, why you would draw this conclusion.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 6 months ago

gogo, you must not have gotten the memo. we're all incompetent and it's better if we let the government tell us how to live our lives. that allows each of us to be free of responsibility and thought.

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