Stricter seat-belt rule sought in Florida, again

| 8/8/2007

While numerous states remain in active session, Florida is one state that is working on matters to be addressed during the next regular session.

Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, has prefiled a bill for consideration once lawmakers return to Tallahassee in January 2008 that would permit police to pull over drivers in the state for not wearing their seat belts.

Under a 1986 state law, police can ticket drivers for not buckling up only after stopping vehicles for another traffic violation, such as speeding or a bad taillight.

The bill - HB11 - would make failure to buckle up a primary offense.

This marks the latest in several attempts to get stricter enforcement of the state's seat-belt rule through the statehouse. The push had been led by former Democratic state Rep. Irv Slosberg of Boca Raton, whose daughter Dori was killed in a 1996 crash when she wasn't wearing a seat belt. Slosberg left the Legislature after the 2006 session and Glorioso picked up the banner for primary seat-belt enforcement during the 2007 session.

Despite the new sponsorship, the effort again ran into opposition from those warning of Big Brother-style government intrusion or racial profiling. The bill remained in a House committee when the session ended, killing it.

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. States have until Dec. 31, 2008, to approve the legislation or they risk losing out on the funding.

Florida is one of 24 states without a primary seat-belt law. Twenty-five 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.

For more information about legislative issues in Florida in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor