Missouri proposes new seat belt legislation
The Missouri legislature is proposing a bill that would make driving without a seat belt a primary violation. Deputies would be able to pull over anyone who is unrestrained in the front seat of a car. Katelyn Brown tells us more about the potential consequences of not wearing your seat belt.
Missouri bill aims to tighten seat belt enforcement
By Rachel Foster-Gimbel and Katelyn Brown
A bill currently in committee in the Missouri Legislature would allow police to pull people over solely for not wearing their seat belt.
Missouri is one of 16 states that does not have a primary enforcement law, according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. Currently, police can only ticket citizens for not wearing a seat belt when pulled over for another traffic violation.
Some people believe this law is past due. Sgt. Brian Leer is with the Traffic Enforcement Unit in the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. He sees the impact of seat belt usage both in the field and through information compiled nationally.
“It’s sad because if you look at the number of crashes out there where people die, roughly 65 percent of the people who die in car crashes were unbelted,” Leer said. “That’s a big red flag just hearing that stat alone.”
The Missouri Department of Transportation surveyed seat belt use over the last 3 years. They reported that 75.2 percent of the 223 teen vehicle occupants — ages 15 to 19 — killed in Missouri traffic crashes were not wearing a seat belt.
Senator Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, is currently sponsoring the bill in the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill has already been through a hearing, but Schupp said it is moving slowly.
“I’ve been filing this bill for quite a long time, so I’m hopeful that it will pass,” Schupp said. “All we can do is continue to provide the really strong evidence to our colleagues and hope they will understand and make a move and put forward legislation that helps keep people safe.”
Schupp’s hometown, Creve Coeur, has already put this policy in place. Creve Coeur is not alone, as other Missouri cities and counties have passed primary legislation as well — Kansas City among them.
Schupp attributes some of the state-level holdout to a culture in Missouri that is prone to rejecting government intervention.
“I think it’s this idea that there are people who want to say ‘I don’t want the government telling me what to do,’” Schupp said. “But I have this attitude where, if we can put into place a law that encourages people to act responsibly and safely, not only is it good for them, it’s good for the state as a whole.”
If this bill were to be put into place, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that it would prevent 46 fatalities, 538 serious injuries and $139 million in economic costs.
“Missouri is the Show-Me State,” Schupp said. “I think it often wants to see everybody else do something before Missourians are willing to stand up and take a stand, and that doesn’t always work well for us.”