Wrapup: Seatbelt Law Dies Again

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A proposal to let police stop motorists
for no other reason than not wearing seat belts died during the
2009 Legislature, and so did a last-minute plan to at least study
the idea of making it a primary traffic offense to drive around
unbelted.

SB116 would have made not wearing a seat belt a primary offense.
The measure was a new version of a proposal that has been killed in
several previous sessions despite strong support from law
enforcement.

Proponents said the bill would save lives, reduce injuries and
save taxpayer money in the form of health care costs for injured
drivers and welfare services for survivors of people killed in
wrecks.

Opponents said seat belts don't necessarily save lives or may
even harm or kill people in crashes, adding that current laws are
enough. Other critics contended that it interferes with personal
liberty and may encourage racial profiling.

Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, said he doesn't understand why
the bill died.

"It's so easy to reduce the cost of the taxpayers' burden, it
was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned," Nolan said. "What's
the big deal? Most people do wear seat belts but it's those who
don't who cost the state taxpayer money."

After the measure died in the Assembly Transportation Committee,
Nolan proposed a 2-year study in the Las Vegas area to help
determine how many lives a primary seat belt would save.

The study was grafted onto AB433, a bill that dealt with
oncology services at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. The
Assembly adjourned the last day of the session without taking a
vote on the bill, effectively killing the attached study.

Nolan said study costs would have been kept low by using police
and firefighters along with emergency medical service personnel to
collect data while on the job. Information would have been turned
over to the legislative audit division staff for summary and
analysis.

During the study, nobody would have been cited for not wearing a
seat belt, Nolan said. The goal would have been to revisit primary
seat belt enforcement for the 2011 legislative session.

"It's more a matter of demonstration to those legislators that
refuse to see the need for a primary seat belt law," Nolan said.

Nolan said situations he encountered in 15 years as a paramedic
along with some time spent as a coroner investigator in the Las
Vegas area led him to be persistent in trying to mandate seat belt
use.

"Every state that has gone from secondary to primary seat belt
laws have experienced an immediate 10 to 15 percent reduction of
deaths on highways," Nolan said.

SB145 was another bill dealing with seat belts that died during
the 2009 session. The measure would have allowed police to ticket
cab passengers for not wearing seat belts, and also ticket cabbies
who don't ensure that children riding in their taxis are buckled
up.

The measure would have made failure to wear seat belts in cabs a
primary offense. Existing law allows police to ticket unbelted
persons in taxis only if the cab is already stopped for another
offense or if persons in the cab are arrested for another reason.

The bill also would have let police ticket adult cab passengers
for failing to ensure their children are wearing seat belts. Clear,
visible signs posted in cabs advising passengers that they must
wear seat belts would have been required.


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