Vermont lawmaker pursues enhanced seat-belt law

| 2/18/2005

Police would be permitted to pull over drivers in Vermont who are not buckled up under a bill offered by a House lawmaker.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Harry Chen, D-Mendon, would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement.

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

Under the proposal, police would issue violators a warning for the first five months of implementation. After that, drivers found in violation would be fined $25. No points would be assessed against the driver’s license.

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

However, there could be a financial perk for Vermont to strengthen its law.

Dr. Jeffrey Runge, head of the NHTSA, said recently the federal government planned to offer a $17 million, one-time incentive to states that passed a primary law.

Vermont is one of 28 states without the stricter version. 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.

H90 is in the House Transportation Committee