Mandatory seat-belt rule sent to Alaska governor

| Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Alaska Legislature approved a bill last week that would permit police to pull over drivers not wearing their seat belts.

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

Sponsored by Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, the measure – SB87 – would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement once the governor signs the bill. It would bring the state in line to claim additional federal highway funding.

Violators would face a $60 fine – the same as current state law.

The bill passed both the House and Senate a year ago, but was called back to the House floor for approval of changes at the end of the session. Lawmakers wasted little time at the start of the 2006 session making final revisions and signing off on the bill.

It now heads to Gov. Frank Murkowski for his signature.

Alaska’s roads and bridges stand to lose out on federal funding if the state fails to approve a primary enforcement bill by Dec. 31, 2008.

The Highway Bill approved by Congress in August 2005 gives any state that adopts tougher seat-belt rules or achieves a belt usage rate of 85 percent one-time federal grant money for roads. Alaska, which has a usage rate of 78 percent, stands to get $3.7 million.

Alaska is one of 27 states without the stricter provision. Legislators in some of those states, however, have brought up bills this year to add their state to the list of 22 that already 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.

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