Sunday, 8 February 2004

Buckling up

Today’s CA features an article on the latest effort to make Mississippi’s seatbelt law a “primary offense”, which would permit law enforcement officers to pull over vehicles whose drivers or passengers were not complying with the law. The article notes:

Nationwide, states that switch from secondary to primary seatbelt laws report a 10- to 15-percent increase in seatbelt use, according to the National Safety Council, an Illinois-based advocacy group. In Alabama, seatbelt use climbed from 52 percent in the year before the state passed a primary law to 79 percent two years later.

However, NHTSA data suggests that figure is overstated: their 2003 survey shows an 8% differential between states with primary and secondary laws. And the Alabama figures seem downright implausible—although, given that seatbelt use is trending higher in all states, not entirely outside the realm of possibility.

There are no fewer than six different bills that would make the seatbelt law a primary offense; they mainly differ in (a) whether or not the maximum fine per vehicle would be doubled* and (b) whether or not non-use of seatbelts can be considered contributory or comparative negligence.

* The current law essentially caps the fine at $25, no matter how many people in the vehicle aren't wearing their seatbelts.