February 4, 2009
Drivers better buckle up or pay the price: More cash-strapped states want to give law enforcement officers the authority to pull over motorists just for not wearing their seat belts.
More than a dozen states that are considering making the switch to primary seat-belt enforcement laws need to do so before July to be eligible for millions in federal money.
One of those states is Ohio, which would get $26.8 million if it changes its law. Currently, officers in the state must first have some other reason to stop drivers over before issuing seat-belt citations.
States without primary seat-belt enforcement that want the federal money must pass a bill and have it signed by the governor by June 30 – and begin issuing citations by Sept. 30 – to qualify for federal funds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal money attached to seat-belt enforcement can only be spent for highway-related projects.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland proposed the change in his two-year budget plan released Monday. The state Legislature has previously balked at making the change.
“The budget includes a primary seat-belt enforcement law because evidence suggests it saves lives and to bring additional federal resources for highway safety,” said spokesman Keith Dailey.