Tougher seat-belt law advances in Colorado

| 3/22/2007

Police in Colorado would be permitted to pull over drivers who are not buckled up under a bill that is nearing approval in the statehouse.

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 House Transportation and Energy Committee voted 7-4 to approve a bill - SB151 - that would allow for primary enforcement of the state's seat-belt law. It now heads to the House floor for further consideration. If approved there, it would move to the governor's desk. The Senate previously approved it by an 18-16 vote.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, the bill would fine violators $25 - up from $15 now. No points would be assessed against drivers' licenses.

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.

Congress approved legislation in 2005 that 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. Colorado, with a usage rate of 79 percent, could claim $14.5 million, The Associated Press reported.

Colorado 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 law.