Stricter seat-belt rule, teen driving restrictions sought in Nevada

| 8/15/2008

Lawmakers in Nevada are busy filing bill draft requests for possible legislation that could be brought up for consideration during the 2009 regular session. Among the efforts getting attention are proposals that are intended to make the state’s roadways a little safer, including primary seat belt enforcement and teen driving restrictions.

Members of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee have proposed allowing 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 violation, such as speeding.

The most recent attempt to adopt the stricter rule died in an Assembly committee. In 2007, the Senate previously approved it by a one-vote margin. The bill called for violators to face $25 fines – the same as current state law.

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.

The unwillingness by lawmakers to adopt the primary enforcement rule puts the state in jeopardy of losing more than $5 million in federal funding for roads and bridges.

The 2005 federal highway funding legislation gives any state that adopts tougher seat-belt rules one-time grant money equal to 500 percent of the highway funding they received in 2003. States that do not adopt primary enforcement by Dec. 31, 2008, risk losing out on the money.

Nevada is one of 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.

Teen driving restrictions are the subject of another bill draft request. Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, wants to prohibit drivers under 18 from using cell phones and similar devices while behind the wheel.

These and other proposals can be considered during the legislative session that begins Feb. 2, 2009.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor