Florida lawmaker pursues stricter seat-belt rule

| 12/23/2005

If a Florida state lawmaker gets his way, police would be allowed to pull over drivers in the state for not wearing their seat belts.

Under a 1986 state law, police can ticket drivers for not buckling up only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding or a bad taillight.

Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, has tried for several years to get primary enforcement of the seat-belt rule adopted, motivated by the death of his daughter Dori, who was killed in a 1996 crash when she wasn't wearing a seat belt.

In the past, the bill has run into opposition from those warning of Big Brother-style government intrusion or racial profiling.

Time, however, may be on Slosberg's side. Florida's roads and bridges stand to lose millions in federal funding if the state fails to approve a primary enforcement bill by Dec. 31, 2008.

The Highway Bill approved by Congress this summer gives any state that adopts tougher seat-belt rules or achieves a belt usage rate of 85 percent one-time grant money equal to 500 percent of the highway funding they received in 2003.

Florida is one of 27 states without a primary seat-belt law. Twenty-two 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.

Slosberg's latest effort, HB97, has been sent to four state House panels for consideration during the legislative session that begins in March.