Maine governor proposes tougher seat-belt law

| 1/14/2005

With one of the lowest seat-belt usage rates in the country, Maine’s governor is proposing a stricter seat-belt law.

Gov. John Baldacci’s proposed two-year budget would permit police to pull over drivers for not buckling up. Currently, police cannot ticket drivers older than age 17 for seat-belt violations unless they are first pulled over for another reason, such as speeding or a bad taillight.

“I believe seat belts save lives,” Baldacci said in a written statement. “Our goal is to make Maine the healthiest state in the nation and reduce our overall health care costs.”

Pat Moody, traffic safety spokesman for the American Automobile Association in Portland, ME, told the Kennebec Journal primary seat-belt laws are effective.

“There have been many, many studies done, and the data shows a decrease in deaths, a decrease in injuries, and it saves communities money in the long run,” he said.

Moody said a federal study shows traffic crashes in Maine cost $900 million each year in medical costs and lost productivity.

If Maine’s seat-belt usage increases, as expected under a primary seat-belt law, to 80 percent, it would save an estimated 14 lives, prevent 200 serious injuries and save $41 million each year in the state.

The proposal also would increase the fine for not wearing a seat belt from $50 up to $225. The fines are expected to generate $650,000 in each year of the $5.7 billion, two-year budget, the newspaper reported.

Sen. Christine Savage, R-Union, has introduced a similar bill – LD80 – in the Legislature. It has been forwarded to the Transportation Committee.