Road safety-related bills offered in Utah

| 1/10/2008

If a Utah state lawmaker gets his way, police would be permitted to pull over drivers in the state who are not buckled up. Another safety-related effort would boost the fine for littering highways.

Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy, has offered legislation that would create a primary law for seat-belt enforcement. Currently, law enforcement officers can ticket drivers and passengers age 19 or older for seat-belt violations only after stopping vehicles for another traffic violation. However, such violations are a primary offense for anyone under the age of 19.

This is the sixth attempt in as many years at the stricter rule. In 2007, House lawmakers narrowly killed a Senate-approved bill that would have created a primary law for seat-belt enforcement.

Opponents say the bill – HB87 – represents “heavy-handed government.” 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.

Utah 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.

Another bill would increase the fine for littering onto highways.

State law now calls for people littering or dropping debris along highways to face minimum fines of $100. Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, has offered legislation – SB44 – that would increase the minimum fine for repeat offenders to $250.

Lt. Shawn Judd, section commander of the Utah Highway Patrol, told an interim legislative panel discussing the proposal that the number of debris-related crashes in the state continues to escalate. The cost involved to clear debris also is on the rise.

To help foot the bill, revenue from the fines would be put into a special fund to educate motorists on how to properly secure loads. The Utah Department of Transportation also would get money to help with roadside cleanup.

In addition, UDOT could set up a program to allow people to report violations.

Both bills can be considered during the regular session that begins Jan. 21.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Utah, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor