Stricter seat-belt enforcement effort falters in Wyoming

| 2/27/2008

The Wyoming House rejected a bill that sought to permit police to pull over drivers in the state for not wearing their seat belts.

Currently, police in the state can ticket drivers for not buckling up only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding or a bad taillight.

Sponsored by Rep. Jerry Iekel, R-Sheridan, the bill – HB58 – would have allowed for primary enforcement of the state’s seat-belt law. Violators would have faced $25 fines – the same fine amount as existing state law.

House lawmakers voted against the bill on introduction, effectively killing it for the year. The move marks the second year in a row the House voted to kill the bill to authorize stricter enforcement of the state’s seat belt rules.

Opponents cited personal choice and the potential for racial profiling among the concerns about the stricter enforcement effort. Supporters said saving lives and the lure of federal money should be reason enough to approve the stricter rule.

Failure to approve the bill prevents the state from cashing in on a one-time payment from the federal government. Congress approved legislation in 2005 giving any state that adopts tougher seat-belt rules or achieves a belt usage rate of 85 percent one-time grant money equal to 500 percent of the highway funding the state received in 2003.

Wyoming has a seat-belt usage rate of 70 percent.

There are 23 states without a primary seat-belt law. Twenty-six 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 in Wyoming, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor