More stringent seat-belt rules sought in Kentucky

| 12/23/2005

Hopeful that the time might be right in Kentucky, two state lawmakers have filed efforts to enact a tougher seat-belt rule in the state.

Reps. Charlie Hoffman, D-Georgetown, and Rob Wilkey, D-Scottsville, have offered legislation to permit police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up.

Existing Kentucky law prohibits law enforcement officers to stop a driver solely for not wearing a seat belt. To issue seat-belt citations, drivers must be stopped for another traffic violation, such as speeding.

Hoffman's bill includes a provision that would prohibit law enforcement from setting up roadblocks solely to check for seat-belt violations.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Jim Adams said the cabinet “is ready to aggressively support” a measure in the legislative session that begins Jan. 3 that would allow primary enforcement of the state's seat-belt rules.

“The idea is to save lives,” Adams told the Lexington Herald-Leader after leaving a recent interim Transportation Committee meeting. He also noted that $11 million in federal highway funding is at risk 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 a one-time grant money equal to 500 percent of the highway funding they received in 2003.

The idea has drawn consideration in the state for several years, but hasn't received backing from gubernatorial administrations, including Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

A spokeswoman for Fletcher told The Associated Press the governor may be reconsidering his earlier position and will check on legislative support for a stricter seat-belt rule.

Kentucky is one of 27 states without the stricter provision. 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.