As Car Deaths Spike, States Consider Tough Seat Belt Laws

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As the nation experiences the most dramatic two-year increase in road-related fatalities in decades, a number of states are considering tough “click it or ticket” seat belt legislation, reports Stateline.  Thirty-four states have primary enforcement laws that allow police to pull over motorists who are not belted. But 15 others have only secondary enforcement laws, which allow police to write tickets for a seat belt violation only if a motorist is pulled over for another reason. Bills to toughen enforcement are pending in Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Vermont.

Over the years, seat belt use nationally has jumped from nearly 71 percent in 2000 to 90 percent in 2016. Federal officials estimate seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved about 14,000 occupants’ lives in 2015. Nearly half of the 22,400 occupants killed in crashes that year were unbuckled. Because some people don’t buckle up, safety experts say primary enforcement laws are needed to pressure motorists into it. “Secondary enforcement laws lack teeth. Cops have to find another reason to pull you over,” said Kara Macek, spokeswoman for the Governors Highway Safety Administration. “Primary laws are really the only effective ones.” Federal data from last year found that 92 percent of drivers used seat belts in states with primary enforcement, compared to 83 percent in states with secondary enforcement or none at all.

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