Missouri Highway Patrol supports stricter seatbelt enforcement laws

By March 20, 2007Highway Safety

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, 24.8% of all drivers in Missouri did not fasten their seatbelts. Under the current Missouri seatbelt law, police are only allowed to write a $10 ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, but only if the police officer notices the violation after making a traffic stop for a different reason. The proposed Missouri seatbelt law would allow the Missouri Highway Patrol and other police officers to make a traffic stop on persons not wearing seatbelts. In other states, with what are known as primary safety belt laws, they have noticed an increase in seatbelt use from 10% to 15%.
In certain areas of Missouri, it has been reported that 7 out of 15 people killed in trucking and auto accidents were not wearing seatbelts, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol records. Missouri, which currently only has a secondary seatbelt law, is ranked in the top 10 of states with the highest rates of drivers who do not use seatbelts.
One argument in support of primary safety belt laws, are that people injured in car crashes are a burden to the state, with 25% of the medical and other costs being picked up by the public. In addition, the savings in insurance premiums, government services, hospital fees, rehabilitation services, and police and fire department costs are estimated at $231 million and Missouri would be eligible to get an additional $16 million in federal funds for transportation needs.
According to Lt. Pat Hawkins, a veteran of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, he reported he had seen people die in apparently minor accidents who were not wearing their seatbelts and others, including his own daughter, lived through horrific crashes wearing their seatbelts. According to Lt. Hawkins, the difference between life and death often comes down to the click of a seatbelt.
With the safer design of automobiles nowadays, including driver and passenger side air bags, side impact air bags, stronger pillars to support the roof, vehicles are designed to protect the occupant, if they are wearing their seatbelt. Without a seatbelt, a person becomes a projectile which can lead to paralysis and death once they leave the safety of the vehicle. It only makes sense to have a safety belt law that allows police officers to stop people not wearing a seatbelt. Based on surveys of other states, with only a secondary safety belt law, the highest rate of use is approximately 80%. States with primary safety belt laws see seatbelt use rise to 90% and above. While everyone is concerned about their freedom from regulation, everyone needs to follow common sense laws to protect them.