Monday, February 20, 2006

Seat belt amendments die in committee, again

Steve Urquhart is live blogging from the House today.

The first bill before his House Law Enforcement and Justice Committee was S.B. 98 Safety Belt Enforcement Amendments. Steve writes:

This bill would allow law enforcement to pull over and ticket drivers for not buckling up. Currently, a driver cannot be pulled over for a seat belt infraction. A seat belt infraction is a secondary offense to some other primary infraction for which the driver is pulled over.

Sen. Hale presented. AAA spoke in favor, arguing this would save lives and fit well with out strong DUI laws. UDOT spoke in favor, pointing out that 75% of those dieing on our highways are improperly restrained. PTA spoke in favor, arguing that children largely do buckle up, but many parents don't; children need parents. Primary Childrens spoke in favor, arguing that properly buckled parents have properly buckled children. Highway Patrol spoke in favor, arguing that buckled drivers are safer because they don't slide around in dicey situations. Chairman Bowman is describing the death of his son-in-law in a rollover. Rep. Pat Jones moves to pass the bill. It fails 6-4.

From Steve's description of the broad support for the bill and the compelling arguments in its favor, you would never guess that he voted against it.

Our seat belt statute is even more messed up than most legislators I think realize. The secondary offense provision, which is what Senator Hales was trying to repeal, states:
(4) For a person 19 years of age or older who violates Subsection (1)(a) or (2), enforcement by a state or local law enforcement officer shall be only as a secondary action when the person has been detained for a suspected violation of Title 41, Motor Vehicles, other than Subsection (1)(a) or (2), or for another offense.
Some district courts have read this provision (correctly I think) to allow law enforcement to cite a passenger for a seat belt violation only when the passenger is detained on suspicion of violating the law. In other words, our seat belt law is unenforceable against passengers over the age of 19, unless they are breaking the law in some other way.


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