Roughly 25 years ago, I got the middle-of-the-night call that no one wants to get: My brother had been involved in a head-on crash and had been transported to an emergency room. I had no idea, as I drove to the hospital, what I would encounter when I arrived.

Fortunately, my brother survived, though the gash on his forehead — which took a few dozen stitches to close — serves as a daily reminder of the importance of wearing a seatbelt. The accident occurred before our state mandated seatbelt use. There is zero doubt that his noggin wouldn't have crashed into the windshield of his car had he been wearing his.

Indeed, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration says that 11,000 lives are saved each year by seatbelt use. Given this, one would assume that everyone would buckle up every time they entered a moving vehicle. But seatbelt use nationwide was just 81% in 2006, with a low of 63.5% in New Hampshire and Wyoming.

Certainly, much of the hesitancy shown toward buckling up stems from Big Brother concerns. Most Americans don't like the idea of government telling them what to do, even when the action is intended to save them. (Indeed, New Hampshire's state motto is “Live free or die.”) I still can remember the outrage when our state made seatbelt use mandatory, and know people who refuse to buckle up to this day.

In this edition, contributing writer Merrill Douglas reports on technology being used by power utilities to adjust thermostats by a degree or two — without the owner's consent or even knowledge — to preserve precious resources and, in some cases, to prevent power outages. Already the hue and cry has begun, as some question whether allowing such a practice will lead to future, even more egregious, intrusions. It's a legitimate question, one that contributing writer Alan Tilles raises in his commentary on page 16.

Nevertheless, there are times when a government must take action to protect its citizens — even when it is against their wishes — and this is one of them. In 1995, the city of Chicago was gripped by a heat wave over five days, during which time temperatures rose to 106° F. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 495 people suffered heat-related deaths. Part of the problem was a power outage that affected 49,000 households.

I wonder how many of those deaths could have been prevented if the air-conditioning hadn't failed.