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UPDATE: Tomblin Signs Stricter W.Va. Seat Belt Law

By: WSAZ News Staff; The Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; The Associated Press Email
seat belt

Seat belts are now required in pickup trucks in Georgia. Georgia was the last state to enact such a law. (June 4, 2010 / WRDW-TV)

UPDATE 5/23/13 @ 5:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed a stricter seat belt law for West Virginia motorists.

Tomblin signed the bill Thursday during a ceremony at the state Capitol. It is effective July 9 and allows police to pull over motorists if the driver or passengers aren't wearing seat belts. Previously the driver had to be stopped for another violation first.

The fine for failing to wear a seat belt will be $25, with no court costs or points on a driver's license.

State police and other supporters say the new law will increase seat belt use and save lives.



UPDATE 3/28/13 @ 1:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The House of Delegates wants drivers to be pulled over in West Virginia for not wearing a seat belt.

A 55-44 vote Thursday narrowly passed a bill making that violation a primary offense.

31 states now treat failure to wear a seat belt as a primary offense that triggers a traffic stop.

Not wearing a seat belt in West Virginia is now secondary offense. That means a driver must be pulled over for some other violation to be cited.

The House Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill earlier this month, but only by 13-11.

Thursday's vote followed an emotional debate. Both sides invoked lost loved ones.

Opponents argued seat belt use is a matter of personal responsibility. Supporters said it would help save lives and avoid family tragedies.



UPDATE 3/28/13
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The House of Delegates is deciding whether drivers can be pulled over in West Virginia for not wearing a seat belt.

A bill making that violation a primary offense is up for a Thursday vote. Thirty-one states now treat failure to wear a seat belt as a primary offense, triggering a traffic stop.

Not wearing a seat belt in West Virginia is now secondary offense. That means a driver must be pulled over for some other violation to be cited.

The House Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill earlier this month, but only by 13-11.

Opponents argue seat belt use is a matter of personal responsibility. Supporters estimate it would boost seat belt use by up to 7 percent.

The Senate has supported such legislation in past sessions.



UPDATE 3/25/13 @ 5:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia's House of Delegates is back on track to vote on whether to allow traffic stops for failure to wear a seat belt.

Legislation making that violation a primary offense has idled since the House Judiciary Committee endorsed it March 12.

The bill had advanced on a narrow 13-11 vote. Opponents argue seat belt use is a matter of personal responsibility. Supporters estimate it would boost seat belt use by up to 7 percent.

The House Rules Committee returned the bill to the active schedule on Monday. It's up for a vote on passage Thursday.

West Virginia is among 16 states that treat failure to wear a seat belt as a secondary offense. That means drivers can be cited only when they're pulled over for some other violation.



ORIGINAL STORY 2/14/11
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- In the past year, far too many lives were cut short in car accidents, and it was all because those motorists weren't wearing seat belts.

These accidents inspired West Virginia senators to pass a bill that would slap a fine on drivers who don't buckle up.

Right now, a person can only be cited for not wearing a seat belt if they get pulled over for something else. If the new bill passes, not wearing a seatbelt would become a primary offense.

For police, giving drivers a choice is just too risky. They believe stepping up the laws could save close to 25 lives each year.

"There's always usually three common denominators with fatalities in West Virginia -- it's either no seat belt, alcohol, or speed," Charleston Police Sgt. Shawn Williams said. "If we can help eliminate one of those, by the passage of this law, then we consider it very successful."

It's an idea some drivers believe is overstepping boundaries.

"i think it's too much," Bonnie Hissom said. "If people don't want to wear seatbelts, it's their lives they're putting in danger."

But, changing the law comes with a price cut. The penalty for not strapping in would be $15. That's actually $10 less than the current fine.

"I believe those people not wearing their seat belt will definitely think twice and will put it on," Delegate Daniel Hall said.

"I think it's important that people wear their seatbelts. There's no question that wearing your seatbelt saves lives," Delegate Woody Ireland said.

They're hoping buckling down on the law will be the answer they're looking for.


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