By Bob Katzen

PRIMARY ENFORCEMENT OF THE SEAT BELT LAW (S 1591) – Allows police officers to issue tickets for seat belt violations even if the driver is not first stopped for another violation as required under current law. Other provisions prevent officers from searching the vehicle or occupants solely because of the seat belt violation and prohibit a seat belt violation from resulting in a surcharge on motor vehicle insurance premiums.

The fine for drivers and passengers over the age of 16 who violate the law would be increased from $25 to $50. The current additional $25 fine on the driver for each passenger between the ages of 12 and 16 who is not wearing a seatbelt would also rise to $50.

“Seat belts save lives,” said Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough), the sponsor of the bill. “In fact they saved the life of me and my wife years ago. The data shows that Massachusetts lags the nation in usage, yet state law currently requires that everyone buckle up for a reason. This simple fix will add an enforcement mechanism to a law that already exists. The evidence is clear, the likelihood of severe injuries and fatalities drop significantly when people buckle up. We should pass this law to save lives and include a data collection provision to ensure that it is applied evenly and without bias.”

“The Rite of Spring has now arrived with another mandatory seat belt law bill,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, who got his start in political activism leading the ballot campaign to repeal the non-primary seat belt law in 1986. “Like a persistent weed it sprouts anew each spring and needs to be eradicated,” Ford added. “Another law was immediately proposed in 1987 and every spring thereafter until it was again imposed in 1994, again with the promise it would never become a primary offense. Yet that too has tenaciously bloomed year after year. If that promise is broken, the next step—always the goal of the insurance industry lobby—will be imposition of the insurance surcharge. Experience has painfully taught us the value of a legislative promise.”

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