Minnesota House panel forwards tougher seat-belt effort

| 4/12/2005

Police would be permitted to pull over drivers in Minnesota if someone in the vehicle is not buckled up under a bill approved by a House panel.

The House Transportation Committee voted overwhelmingly March 29 in favor of HF1087, a bill that 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.

Sponsored by Rep. Duke Powell, R-Burnsville, the bill also would double the fine for not wearing a seat belt to $50. 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 Minnesota to strengthen its law.

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

Minnesota 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.

HF1087 now moves to the Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee.