Tougher seat-belt law moves forward in Colorado

| Monday, February 14, 2005

A Colorado House panel has advanced a measure that would permit police to pull over drivers who are not wearing their seat belts.

The House Transportation and Energy Committee voted 7-4 on Feb. 2 to create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement. The bill – HB1138 – now heads to the House Appropriations Committee for further review.

Currently, police can issue seat-belt citations to drivers only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation.

Under the proposal, drivers found in violation would be fined at least $15. No points would be assessed against the drivers’ licenses.

While supporters of a primary seat-belt law sometimes point to federal money the state would lose for failing to establish a primary law, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says no direct grant funds are doled out for having a primary law.

However, a proposal before Congress would give any state that upgrades to a primary law one-time grant money, said Jack Oates of the NHTSA.

Meanwhile, some indirect funds are available to states that tighten their safety-belt laws.

One incentive grant program, scheduled to end soon, requires states to meet four of six criteria, one of which is passing a primary seat-belt law. Others include having a secondary law and educating the public on child passenger safety.

Colorado 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.

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