West Virginia bill would strengthen seat-belt law

| 3/11/2005

Drivers caught not wearing their seat belts could be pulled over under legislation in the West Virginia House.

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

The measure, filed by Delegate Corey Palumbo, D-Charleston, would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement.

Palumbo sponsored a similar effort last year. It failed to make its way out of a House panel.

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 West Virginia to strengthen its law.

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

West Virginia 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.

HB2340 is in the House Judiciary Committee.