House kills Senate seat belt bill

Dylan Sherman

BISMARCK — Despite passing in the Senate, a bill to allow primary enforcement of seat belts and require all passengers to be buckled failed in the House by a vote of 45 to 49 on March 23.

Senate Bill 2121 had over two hours of testimony in support of the bill during the House Committee hearing on March 18. Support for the bill came from law enforcement, health agencies and seat belt advocates.

SB 2121 joins two other failed seat belt bills from the House, HB 1156 and HB 1257.

“A person’s choice to buckle up does not only affect that individual and their loved ones,” said Andy Schneider, sheriff of Grand Forks County, during the hearing.

Schneider provided testimony on the numerous crashes he has responded to where a person was ejected from their vehicle and killed because they were not wearing a seat belt.

Current law makes failure to use a seat belt law a secondary offense, meaning you must be pulled over for something else before you can be fined for not wearing a seat belt.

There is also a mental toll for officers having to deal with identifying bodies that have been ejected from vehicles, Schneider said. “If you are in a critical incident like that, we give you administrative days off,” he said.

People who opposed the bill said that making seat belt use a primary offense would infringe on the freedom for drivers to choose not to wear one.

New Hampshire     Worst thing:  Poor seat belt use About 23.6% of New Hampshire residents fail to regularly wear a seat belt, well above the 10.4% of U.S. adults.

Rep. Bob Paulson, R-Minot, asked the House what protections would have to be made next. “Is it the proper role of the government to protect us from ourselves?” he asked. “Perhaps motorcycle helmets should be mandated.”

Rep. Jared Hagert, R-Emerado, was the only representative to speak in favor of the bill on the floor. “It makes a lot of sense to have everybody buckled up in that vehicle,” he said.

SB 2121 joins two other failed seat belt bills from the House, HB 1156 and HB 1257. 

HB 1257 would have allowed those over 18 to be exempt from wearing a seat belt, and HB 1156 would have allowed those making deliveries to be exempt from wearing a seat belt.

Current law makes failure to use a seat belt law a secondary offense, meaning you must be pulled over for something else before you can be fined for not wearing a seat belt.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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