The Arkansas Legislature approved a bill that would allow for stricter seat belt enforcement on roads in the state. Passage of the bill also will secure federal money for the state.
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. Once it is signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe, police would be permitted to pull over drivers in the state for not buckling up.
Violators would face $25 fines.
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.
The 2005 federal highway funding legislation gives any state that adopts tougher seat belt rules one-time grant money. The last chance for states to upgrade their seat belt law and access extra federal funding is Sept. 30.
House and Senate lawmakers signed off on the bill – SB78 – and agreed to an emergency clause, which allows it to take effect before the Sept. 30 cutoff. The move secures nearly $10 million for highway safety programs.
Arkansas is in line to become the 27th state to 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 Arkansas in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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