Drivers who don't wear their seat belts could be pulled over
under legislation approved in the Montana Senate.
Currently, police can issue seat-belt citations to drivers
in the state only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such
as speeding. The Senate voted 29-21 to advance a bill to the House that would
allow officers to stop drivers for not buckling up.
Sponsored by Sen. Mike Cooney, D-Helena, the bill also would
allow for drivers to be pulled over if a child is not properly restrained.
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.
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
federal grant money for roads. Montana, with a usage rate of 80 percent, could
claim $4.8 million.
Montana 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
The Montana bill - SB300 - has been forwarded to the House