Tougher seat-belt law killed in Colorado

| 4/27/2007

For the second year in a row, a bill has died in Colorado that would have allowed police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up. Currently, police can issue seat-belt citations to drivers in the state only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding.

The House voted 33-31 to kill a bill – SB151 – that would have allowed for so-called primary enforcement of the state’s seat-belt law. The Senate previously approved it by an 18-16 vote.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, the bill would have fined violators $25 – up from $15 now. No points would have been assessed against drivers’ licenses.

Similar to a failed effort from a year ago, opponents were able to beat back the effort citing personal choice and the potential for racial profiling among the concerns about the stricter enforcement effort. Supporters said saving lives and the lure of federal money should be reason enough to approve the stricter rule.

Congress approved legislation in 2005 that gives any state that adopts tougher seat-belt rules or achieves a belt usage rate of 85 percent one-time federal grant money for roads. Colorado, with a usage rate of 79 percent, could claim $12 million, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

Colorado is one of 25 states without the stricter provision. Twenty-four states allow police to pull over drivers solely for not wearing their seat belts. New Hampshire is the only state without a mandatory seat-belt law.