Ag Opinion Says Seatbelt Law Not Unconstitutional / No Discrimination Found

Article excerpt

The Oklahoma Legislature did not unconstitutionally discriminate when it required only drivers and front seat passengers of automobiles t o use seat belts, the attorney general's office said Thursday.

The new law, which becomes effective Feb. 1, 1987, exempts drivers and front seat passengers of trucks, vans, pickup trucks and recreational vehicles from the mandatory seat belt law.

Rep. Nelson ""Freckles'' Little, R-Tulsa, asked Attorney General Mike Turpen for an opinion on whether the law - by setting up two distinct classes - was unconstitutional.

Turpen and Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader said in the opinion that Nelson's question essentially was, ""whether the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution is violated'' by the distinction.

The U.S. Supreme Court ""has on many occasions held that unless a state statute is inherently invidious or impinges upon fundamental rights, the statute must be upheld against equal protection challenge if it is rationally related to a legitimate government goal,'' the opinion said.

It added that one of the objectives of the law is public safety and ""the differing treatment afforded those traveling in automobiles and those driving pickups, trucks, vans and the like cannot be said to be based on grounds wholly irrelevant to the achievement of a state's objective. …

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