By Bob Katzen

The Baker Administration announced today that seat belt use in Massachusetts rose by nearly 8 percent (from 73.7 percent to 81.6 percent) from 2017 to 2018. The study was conducted by the University of Massachusetts Traffic Safety Research Program. The survey estimates 115 lives were saved by seat belts in Massachusetts in 2016, but 45 additional lives would have saved at a use rate of 100 percent.

“Our enforcement and education efforts are clearly paying off, but we need to do even better,” said Jennifer Queally, Undersecretary for Law Enforcement at the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. “Increasing seat belt use saves lives. Research shows that your chance of surviving a crash rises significantly if you’re buckled up.”

“Troopers enforce the seatbelt law whenever possible,” Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, said. “But there is much more at stake for motorists than an extra fine. The five seconds it takes to buckle up could end up being the most important five seconds of your life or the life of someone you love.”

Legislation that would make the seat belt law a “primary enforcement” one, allowing police officers to stop and issue $25 tickets to drivers and passengers solely for not wearing their seat belts has been filed in the Bay State annually for many years. It never makes it all the way through the legislative process.

Current law is a “secondary enforcement” one that prohibits drivers from being stopped solely for not wearing a seat belt and allows an officer to issue a ticket only if the driver is stopped for another motor vehicle violation or some other offense.

“We warned in both of our campaigns to repeal the state’s mandatory seat belt law that creeping incrementalism would inevitably impose primary enforcement,” said Chip Ford, Executive Director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Ford was the leader of The Committee to Repeal the Mandatory Seat Belt Law, the group that succeeded in a ballot campaign that repealed the original seat belt law passed in 1985 and then reimposed in 1994. “The law’s advocates of course vehemently denied any such intent. Most surprising is that it hasn’t been imposed yet, but despite assurances to the contrary, sooner or later it will be. Incrementalism demands it.”

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