Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Legislators Want to Tighten Up Seat Belt Law

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Legislators Want to Tighten Up Seat Belt Law

Article excerpt

Experienced accident investigators usually can tell when a crash victim has ignored a mandatory seat belt law:

The windshield is smashed with the imprint of the victim's face, body parts litter the floor, and the steering wheel is mangled.

Now some Missouri legislators want to make it easier for law officers to ticket drivers who don't buckle up. In Missouri, Illinois and some other states, police may ticket seat belt scofflaws only if officers find another violation. That will change if Rep. Deleta Williams, D-Warrensburg, has her way. She plans to introduce a bill today to let police stop vehicles solely for suspected seat belt violations. "We know that at least 77 percent of the occupants killed in Missouri traffic crashes in 1995 were not wearing seat belts," she says. Williams' bill is backed by insurance and auto companies that have put up $100,000 to get the law changed. A similar move will be made to change Illinois' law. Since 1987, Missouri has required front-seat occupants of cars to wear seat belts. Experts say current law has two problems: The penalty is a $10 fine - about the same as a parking ticket. Violations are "infractions," which are noncriminal violations. Police may ticket for a seat belt violation only in connection with another violation or an accident. The 1987 law was a compromise that barely passed. Opponents called it a hoax that would make voters mad enough to throw out olegislators who supported it. Opposition was strong from rural legislators, who objected to more government regulation. One said making seat belts mandatory was as silly as requiring people to get their blood pressure checked every month. Law enforcement officers generally favor tougher seat belt laws. Col. Fred Mills, chief of the Missouri Highway Patrol, is scheduled to attend the news conference today in favor of the proposed legislation. …

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