Kentucky governor wants higher speeds, stricter seat-belt enforcement

| Thursday, January 12, 2006

Gov. Ernie Fletcher wants to allow drivers in Kentucky to drive a little faster on certain roadways. In return, he wants tougher rules on seat-belt use.

During his annual State of the Commonwealth speech to the General Assembly Monday, Jan. 9, the Republican governor called for legislation that would make driving without a seat belt a primary offense along with increasing the speed limit on interstates and major state highways to 70 mph – up from the current 65 mph.

“Studies suggest this will not negatively impact highway safety,” Fletcher told lawmakers.

House Speaker Jody Richards said the higher limit makes a lot of sense and could draw a lot of consideration.

“Most people drive 70 anyway,” Richards, D-Bowling Green, told The Associated Press. “I think that will pass the House.”

In addition to the 70 mph effort, Rep. Rob Wilkey, D-Scottsville, has introduced a bill that would permit drivers to travel 65 mph on the state’s four-lane highways – up from the current 60 mph limit. The bill – HB95 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

The stricter seat-belt rule would permit police to pull over drivers solely for failure to buckle up. Currently, law enforcement can issue seat-belt citations to drivers only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding.

“Folks,” Fletcher said, “it’s time for a primary seat-belt law in Kentucky .”

The governor said a primary law could save 62 lives in the first year. In addition, it would provide the state with an extra $11 million in federal highway dollars each year for road safety projects, such as guard rails, he said.

The seat-belt bill – HB106 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

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