Utah bill would allow drivers to be pulled over for seat belts

| Friday, January 28, 2005

A Utah state senator has renewed her push to permit police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up.

This is Sen. Karen Hale’s third attempt at the measure, which passed the Senate a year ago only to be killed by House leadership.

The Senate’s transportation panel voted 4-1 on Jan. 25 to forward the bill to the full Senate, where Hale expects lively debate.

The bill – SB109 – would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement. Currently, police can ticket drivers and passengers age 19 or older for seat-belt violations only after stopping vehicles for another traffic violation.

However, such violations are a primary offense for anyone under the age of 19.

Hale, D-Midvale, said she’s not sure if the bill will have enough new support in the Legislature to pass – but it appears to have broad public backing.

A Salt Lake Tribune poll taken earlier this month showed two of three Utahans support a stricter seat-belt law.

Opposing lawmakers say the measure is an unneeded government intrusion.

If signed into law, the provision could put Utah in line for additional federal money.

The federal government plans to provide states with primary seat-belt laws with a new grant source once Congress passes the transportation reauthorization act. The act is expected for debate this congressional session.

Utah is one of 28 states without a primary seat-belt law. Twenty-one states allow police to pull over drivers solely for not wearing their seat belts. New Hampshire is the only state without a mandatory seat-belt law