Mississippi lawmaker pursues stricter seat-belt enforcement

| Monday, February 02, 2004

A proposal in the Mississippi House of Representatives would permit police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Rita Martinson, would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement. Currently, police can ticket drivers and passengers for seat-belt violations only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation.

“It doesn’t make sense to have a law on the books with no teeth in it,” Martinson, R-Madison, told The Clarion-Ledger.

Under HB151, an unbelted driver could be fined $25 and a front-seat passenger or child would cost the driver another $50. No points would be assessed on the driver’s license.

If signed into law, it would put Mississippi 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.

Mississippi is one of about 30 states without a primary seat-belt law. The state’s usage rate is about 62 percent, the newspaper reported.

The bill has been forwarded to the House Transportation Committee.