Virginia Senate OKs primary seat-belt bill

| 1/29/2008

A bill that would allow police to pull over drivers for not wearing their seat belts has passed the Virginia Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Patricia Ticer, D-Alexandria, the bill would allow for primary enforcement of the state’s seat belt law. Currently, law enforcement in the state can issue seat-belt citations to drivers only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding.

Failure to buckle up would continue to be a $25 fine. No points would be added to driver’s licenses, and insurance companies wouldn’t be notified.

Senate lawmakers voted 22-18 to advance the bill to the House, which has failed to advance similar efforts in recent years. This year’s version – SB649 – is awaiting assignment to committee.

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

Virginia 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.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor