Alaska bill would make seat belts mandatory

| 2/25/2005

Drivers caught not wearing their seat belts could be pulled over under legislation pending in the Alaska Legislature.

Currently, police in the state can issue seat-belt citations to drivers only after stopping them for another traffic violation.

The measure, introduced by Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement.

Bunde sponsored a similar effort last session. It failed to pass the House after passing the Senate.

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 Alaska to strengthen its law.

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

Alaska is one of 28 states without the stricter provision. 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.

SB87 is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.