If a leading Missouri state lawmaker gets his way, police
would be allowed to pull over drivers who are not buckled up.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Neal St. Onge, R-Ellisville,
has offered a bill that would allow for primary enforcement of the state's seat
belt law. Currently, law enforcement in the state can issue seat-belt citations
to drivers only after stopping a driver for another violation, such as
Opponents cite personal choice and the potential for racial
profiling among the concerns about the stricter enforcement effort. Supporters
say saving lives and the lure of federal money should be reason enough to
approve the stricter rule.
St. Onge's effort has the backing of the state's leading
Pete Rahn, director of the Missouri Department of
Transportation, said getting a primary seat belt law through the General
Assembly is one of his top priorities.
"We've worked hard to inform the public about the importance
of safety belt use, but it's apparent that awareness campaigns and secondary
enforcement can only get us so far," Rahn said in a written statement.
If approved, Missouri would be line for a one-time $16
million payment from the federal funding, the Quincy Herald-Whig reported.
The 2005 federal Highway Bill 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.
Missouri has a seat-belt usage rate of 75.2 percent. Rahn
said enacting stricter enforcement would increase safety belt use by about 11
There are 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
The proposed seat-belt rule in Missouri - HB90 - could come
up for consideration during the session that begins Jan. 3.