Massachusetts lawmakers revisit mandatory seat-belt use

| 6/27/2005

A bid to permit police to pull over drivers who are not wearing their seat belts is again under review in the Massachusetts Legislature.

In two votes in the past four years, House lawmakers have deadlocked on whether to advance a stricter seat-belt rule.

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

The latest effort, introduced by Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement. Violators could be fined $25.

The Legislature’s Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security held a hearing on the measure, but has yet to take a formal vote to advance the bill – S1367.

Opponents say allowing officers to pull over drivers solely for not buckling up goes too far, the Berkshire Eagle reported. They contend the state should only educate drivers and passengers and allow them to make their own choices.

Stacey Ober, a spokesperson for the Seatbelts Are For Everyone coalition, said state officials can educate the public all they want, but the majority of Massachusetts’ drivers do not wear their seat belts. She told the newspaper studies have shown that when states enact primary enforcement laws, use goes up.

In addition, there could be a financial perk for Massachusetts to strengthen its law.

A proposal before Congress would give any state that adopts tougher seat-belt rules one-time grant money equal to 500 percent of the highway funding they received in 2003, The Associated Press reported.

Massachusetts 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.