Minnesota bill would allow stricter seat-belt enforcement

| 1/16/2007

A leading Minnesota state lawmaker has offered a bill that would permit police to pull over drivers in the state for not wearing their seat belts.

Currently, police in the state can ticket drivers for not buckling up only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding or a bad taillight.

The chairman of the Transportation Budget and Policy Division of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, introduced a bill that would allow for primary enforcement of the state's seat-belt law.

Violators would face at least $25 in fines and fees. No points would be assessed against the driver's license.

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.

If approved, Minnesota would be line for a one-time $15 million payment from the federal government, the Minneapolis Star Tribune 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.

Minnesota has a seat-belt usage rate of 82 percent.

There are 25 states without a primary seat-belt law. 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.

Murphy's bill - SF16 - is in the Senate Finance Committee.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor