Utah bill would let cops stop drivers for seat belts

| Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A proposal in the Utah Senate would permit police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Karen Hale, D-Midvale, would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement. Currently, police can ticket drivers and passengers older than age 19 for seat-belt violations only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation.

However, such violations are a primary offense for anyone 19 and younger who is not belted.

If signed into law, it would put Utah in line for additional federal money.

The Bush administration recently proposed an incentive program to encourage states to increase seat-belt enforcement. The program would provide grants worth $100 million a year for highway safety or construction programs to states that pass a primary seat-belt law or show a seat-belt-usage rate of at least 90 percent.

Failure to do one or the other would result in a loss of up to 4 percent of federal highway funds to the state.

Utah is one of about 30 states without a primary seat-belt law.

SB71 has been forwarded to the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee.