Tougher seat-belt rule dies in Colorado

| 5/15/2006

A bill that would have permitted police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up died in the Colorado House.

House lawmakers had narrowly approved an earlier version of the bill by a 33-32 vote in February that would have made failure to buckle up a primary offense. After the Senate amended the bill in March, House lawmakers had to sign off on the changes to clear the way for the bill – HB1125 – to head to Gov. Bill Owens.

The final House vote was 32-32. It marks the second year in a row that a tie vote in the House killed the effort.

The Senate changes would have increased fines to $25 for adults and $75 for failure to secure a child. Another change would have allowed drivers with back problems to obtain a waiver with a release from a chiropractor. Colorado law now allows police to fine violators only $15 for either offense.

Opponents argued the legislation is less effective than a good marketing campaign and could lead to racial profiling.

Supporters said passing the legislation would save lives. In addition, primary enforcement would put the state in line for additional federal funding.

Congress approved legislation in 2005 that 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. Colorado, with a usage rate of 79 percent, could claim $12 million, The Denver Post reported.

Colorado is one of 25 states without the stricter provision. Twenty-four 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.