Kansas bill would allow stricter seat-belt enforcement

| 1/19/2007

Advocates of stricter enforcement of the seat-belt law in Kansas want lawmakers to allow police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up.

A special driving-safety task force appointed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius plans to recommend passage of 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 vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding.

Opponents cite personal choice and the potential for racial profiling among the concerns about stricter enforcement. Supporters say saving lives and the lure of federal money should be reason enough to approve the stricter rule.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Les Donovan, R-Wichita, is among those who say the tougher seat-belt rule can save lives. However, he's skeptical the effort would make it out of the Legislature this year.

If approved, Kansas would be line for a one-time $11 million payment from the federal government, The Kansas City Star 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.

Kansas has a seat-belt usage rate of 73 percent.

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 law.