Massachusetts lawmakers pursue stricter seat-belt rule

| 1/16/2006

A group of Massachusetts lawmakers want to permit police to pull over drivers in the state who are not buckled up.

Currently, police can issue seat-belt citations to drivers only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding.

Rep. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, are among the legislators pushing a primary law for seat-belt enforcement in an effort to boost the state’s 65 percent usage rate.

“The bottom line is, accidents are always going to happen, no matter what the legislature passes,” Eldridge told the North Adams Transcript. “The bill will save lives.”

An effort to adopt the stricter enforcement is expected to be brought to the House floor later this week.

Supporters are hopeful this year will be different for primary enforcement legislation. Similar efforts stalled twice since 2001 on rare tie votes in the House.

Despite lawmakers’ inability to adopt stricter rules on buckling up, Massachusetts still could be in line for additional federal dollars if it passes a primary enforcement bill by Dec. 31, 2008.

The Highway Bill approved by Congress this past 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.

Massachusetts 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.