More States Considering Seat Belt Laws



It comes as no surprise that most people who are seriously injured or killed in automobile accidents were not wearing their seatbelts. It also comes as no surprise that several states still consider wearing a seatbelt a personal choice. However, now that the recession is starving these states of needed money, they have decided that one way to get it is to give police the authority to pull over motorists who aren’t wearing their seatbelts.

Twelve states are now considering a primary seatbelt enforcement law that must be passed before July in order to qualify for millions of dollars in federal money. These states must pass the law by June 30 and begin issuing citations by September 30, and then may only spend the federal money they receive for highway-related projects, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These states currently must have another reason for pulling over drivers before giving them a citation for driving without their seatbelt on. Twenty-six states, including the District of Columbia, currently have primary seatbelt enforcement laws. The NHTSA estimates that states with a primary seatbelt enforcement law have a population that uses seatbelts 13 percent more than states that don’t have this law. That’s 88 percent to 75 percent for states with a secondary enforcement law.

While seatbelts are known to save lives, cut medical bills, and reduce insurance, and the fact that Congress passed this in their 2005 federal transportation bill as a way to encourage states to adopt it, it wasn’t until these states began to feel the desperation that comes with sharp drops in income that they decided to take the feds up on their offer. States like Ohio, for example, which is facing a $7.3 billion budget deficit projected over the next two years. If the state passes the law, they will get $26.8 million from the government.

Those opposed to the law come from primarily Republican states whose politicians have “libertarian philosophies.” They believe it’s up to the individual to decide to drive as fast as they want without a seatbelt on. Others believe law enforcement already has enough authority, and believe this may violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects against illegal search and seizure.

States considering the primary seatbelt enforcement law in order to get federal money are:

  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Ohio
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Montana
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wyoming
  • Virginia
  • Nebraska
  • Rhode Island
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire