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Politics

House Committee Approves Tougher Enforcement of Seat Belt Law

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/housecommi_2011.mp3

A House committee approved legislation this week that would allow officers to pull drivers over solely for failing to wear a seat belt...The bill would allow primary enforcement of the seat belt law. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

A House committee approved legislation that would allow officers to pull drivers over solely for failing to wear a seat belt...The bill would allow primary enforcement of the seat belt law.

Before the vote, the committee took testimony for and against the bill.

They heard from Cheri Bowden. She's the mother of Jacob Yates, a 17-year-old from Ava High School who was wearing his seat belt when his car was hit head-on by another car. Even with his seat belt on, he died from injuries sustained during the recent crash. But Bowden noted that in the last 20 years, 14 of the 15 Ava High School students killed in car crashes were NOT wearing seat belts. She says primary enforcement of the seat belt law might have saved some of those lives.

The committee also heard from Meghan McDevit. She gave the committee more than 40 letters from Ava High School students urging the committee to support primary enforcement. She read from her letter about the traffic death of fellow student Jacob Yates.

In the past, opposition to primary enforcement of the seat belt law has come from rural lawmakers.

The lone dissenting vote on the bill Tuesday came from Republican Representative Brian Munzlinger. He represents rural portions of Northwest Missouri.

He says he did a poll and found that two-thirds of his constituents don't want to give that much power to law enforcement. He says it's an issue of protecting individual rights.

Some of the traditional opponents from rural Missouri may be changing their minds. House Speaker Rod Jetton says he may vote for the bill and if he does, he'll be a powerful ally. He says he's had a change of heart because of personal experiences.

But other rural lawmakers continue to oppose the bill, saying the bill would give law enforcement officers the power to pull over virtually anyone.

Now that the bill has committee approval, it moves to the House floor for debate.