Wyoming bill to allow stricter seat-belt enforcement dies

| 2/27/2007

The Wyoming House has killed a bill that sought to 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.

House lawmakers voted 34-25 to kill the bill - HB217 - that would have allowed for primary enforcement of the state's seat-belt law. Sponsored by Rep. Jerry Iekel, R-Sheridan, the bill authorized $25 fines for violators - the same fine amount as existing state law.

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.

Failure to approve the bill prevents the state from cashing in on a one-time payment from the federal government. 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.

Wyoming has a seat-belt usage rate of 70 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.