Florida House panel advances stricter seat-belt enforcement

| 1/12/2005

A measure that would allow police to pull over drivers for not wearing their seat belts gained approval from a House panel this week, and sponsors expressed hope the effort might pass this year after several years of failure.

Under a 1986 state law, police can ticket drivers for not buckling up only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding or a bad taillight.

The House Transportation Committee approved the bill on a 10-4 vote. Its House sponsor, Boca Raton Democrat Irv Slosberg, has tried for several years to get the measure – HB3 – passed, motivated by the death of his daughter Dori, who was killed in a 1996 crash when she wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

“I understand that the difference between life and death is a seat belt,” Slosberg said at a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 11.

In the past the bill has run into opposition from those warning of Big Brother-style government intrusion or racial profiling.

But Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, who is black, is sponsoring the bill’s Senate version – SB216 – and said Tuesday he was working to relieve those concerns.

“Racial profiling is not what’s killing our kids,” Hill told The Associated Press. “Not wearing a seat belt is what’s killing our kids.”

The legislation has passed in the House in previous sessions, but hasn’t been able to get through the Senate. Slosberg and Hill said they hope new Senate leaders won’t stand in the way of the bill when the full Legislature meets for two months starting March 8.