South Carolina bill would make seat belts mandatory

| 12/17/2004

Drivers caught not wearing their seat belts could be pulled over under legislation filed in the South Carolina Senate.

The proposal would permit police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up. Currently, police can ticket drivers older than age 17 only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation.

However, such violations are a primary offense for anyone 17 and younger who is not belted.

“The system we have now isn’t working,” State Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, told The State. “This bill will save lives and money.”

Ryberg, the bill’s lead sponsor and chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he intends to give the measure – S1 – priority status in the session that opens Jan. 11.

South Carolina has one of the nation’s highest rates of traffic death and one of the lowest rates of seat-belt usage, the newspaper reported. Since last year, the use of seat belts has dropped in the state, and traffic deaths have risen.

So far this year, 557 people killed in traffic accidents were not wearing seat belts. According to The State, about half would have survived if they had worn seat belts.

Ryberg said more Highway Patrol troopers also are needed to cut down on traffic deaths.

Under the proposal, the fine would be $25 if anyone in the vehicle were unrestrained.

No points would be assessed against the driver’s license. It also would forbid police from searching a vehicle or its occupants if a vehicle is pulled over solely for a seat-belt violation.

If signed into law, the regulation would mean more money for roads and bridges.

States that don’t have such a law must use some of their federal highway dollars on safety issues, such as guardrails and road signs, but they don’t lose any federal funding.

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