Primary seat-belt enforcement bill fails in Utah

| Monday, March 20, 2006

For the fourth year in a row, an effort in the Utah Legislature to permit police in the state to pull over drivers who are not buckled up has been killed.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted 6-4 against the bill to strengthen the state’s seat belt-rules. The Senate had already approved the measure.

Sponsored by Sen. Karen Hale, D-Midvale, the bill – SB98 – sought to create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement. Currently, law enforcement officers can ticket drivers and passengers age 19 or older for seat-belt violations only after stopping vehicles for another traffic violation. However, such violations are a primary offense for anyone under the age of 19, meaning the younger drivers can be pulled over solely for that violation.

This was Hale’s fourth attempt at the stricter rule, which has passed the Senate three years in a row only to be thwarted by House lawmakers.

Opponents cited personal choice and the potential for racial profiling in voting down the bill.

Hale said she’s not undeterred by her failures to get it through the Legislature.

“It’s unfortunate,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I think lives could be saved through more enforcement.”

Utah is one of 25 states without a primary seat-belt law. Twenty-four states, including Alaska and Mississippi who recently adopted stricter rules, 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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