Archive for Monday, February 26, 2007

Senate bill urges teens to buckle up or face fine

If passed by House, measure would assess $60 for not wearing seat belt

February 26, 2007


Jessica Houland, 17, buckles up before leaving the Lawrence High School parking lot on Thursday. The Kansas Senate has passed SB 211, which would make it a primary violation for someone age 14 to 18 to not wear a seat belt. The bill faces opposition in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Jessica Houland, 17, buckles up before leaving the Lawrence High School parking lot on Thursday. The Kansas Senate has passed SB 211, which would make it a primary violation for someone age 14 to 18 to not wear a seat belt. The bill faces opposition in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Audio Clips
No seat belt - a primary offense

When Daniel Green gets behind the wheel of a car, he knows the drill: He's supposed to buckle up.

"My mom and dad are always telling me to wear a seat belt," the Lawrence High School senior said. "But I kind of get in the habit not to."

However, the teenager said if he knew he had to wear it or a police officer could pull him over and give him a hefty fine, he wouldn't be so lax.

The Kansas Senate knows this, too.

On a 30-10 vote, the Senate approved a bill, SB 211, that would make failing to wear a seat belt a primary offense for drivers and passengers ages 14 through 17 in Kansas, punishable with a $60 fine.

Under the bill, which now goes to the Kansas House, law enforcement officers could stop young drivers solely because they don't look like they're buckled up.

The bill is one of two passed by the Senate last week that would affect teen drivers. A second bill, a graduated driver's license bill, also was approved by the Senate, but the vote was closer, 23-17, and it's not expected to get as much enthusiasm in the House.

In it, students wouldn't be able to have full driving privileges until they reach age 18. They could get a learner's permit at age 15 and a restricted license at age 16.

Seat belts more likely

Of the two bills, the seat belt legislation probably has the best chance of being approved this year, said Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, who is a member of the House Transportation Committee.

However, Sloan said he personally favors keeping young drivers in training longer.

"Young people have quicker reactions than I do, given my age, but the experience I have makes me less likely to be in an accident," he said.

However, Sloan said the graduated license bill is hard to sell to some lawmakers because it has only been a few years since the Legislature passed restrictions for young drivers.

In contrast, data is available showing that seat belt use saves lives, Sloan said.

Drivers under age 18 represent about 7 percent of the state's drivers, but are involved in 13 percent of the state's fatal accidents, according to Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.

"We kill many, many teenagers a year in the state of Kansas. And 85 percent of those killed are not wearing seat belts," Donovan said. "If that's not a statistic to cause someone to vote for this, I don't know what else you could tell them. I really don't."

Donovan also said that of the two bills, the seat belt law might be more likely to make it to the governor's desk.

"Two years ago, it got within eight votes of passing in the House," he said. "I'm hopeful from talking to the House Transportation chairman that the votes are over there to pass it."

The governor would like a bill to pass that would mandate seat belt use for all drivers and passengers. But Donovan said the political climate isn't right this year for it to pass.

"We obviously don't have the votes. We never have in the past, not even close," Donovan said.

Getting support

Jeannie Robinson, president of Free State High School's site council, said she supports the legislation.

"I would promote more restrictive teenage driving laws as opposed to less restrictive ones. I think the seat belt law would be a good one," she said.

Several students at FSHS also thought there was merit in making failure to use a seat belt a primary offense.

"It will make people safer," said Lauren Rhoades, 17, a junior, who says she wears a seat belt.

Nicholas Bradburn, 17, a senior at FSHS, said he also buckles up.

"It's probably a good idea, though, because I'm pretty sure you learn the most or retain the most at our age," he said.

Ali Jacobsen, a FSHS sophomore, said she didn't see how an officer could tell if a person was wearing a seat belt from a distance.

"I think it's a good idea, actually, because a lot of people who do get in accidents, they get injured because they're not wearing seat belts," she said. "Sometimes a seat belt could like save you from going through a front windshield."

Personal decision

Some Lawrence students disagreed.

"I can understand wearing a seat belt, but I don't think you should be pulled over for not having a seat belt on," said Tony Williams, an LHS senior. "It's hard to tell if someone is wearing a seat belt or not when they're driving."

Sylvia Yimer, another senior, also didn't like the law.

"I think that wearing a seat belt is a personal decision," Yimer said. "And I don't think they should fine you for not wearing one."

Yimer, who is 18, said if the bill does become law, age shouldn't even be a factor whether you're wearing a seat belt or not.

"No single life is more important than another," she said. "So if it is enforced, it should be enforced for everyone, not just that age group."

Key provisions of the Graduated driver's license bill

Here are key provisions of the graduated driver's license bill, SB 294, which was approved by the Senate 23-17 and forwarded to the House.¢ Age increase. The minimum age to apply for an instructional permit would go from 14 to 15 years old. Restricted licenses would be issued for ages 16 and 17. Nonrestricted licenses could be issued to drivers on their 18th birthday, provided they haven't had more than three traffic infractions. If they have, they would have to wait until their 19th birthday (a new provision).¢ Farm permit. The bill continues to allow students as young as 14 years old to be able to get a farm instructional driving permit.¢ No cell phone. The instructional permit holder and the restricted licensee would not be able to use a "wireless communications device" while driving. ¢ Longer training time. To get restricted licenses for vehicles and motorcycles, students would have to be at least 16 years of age (the current age is 15); have held an instruction permit for one year (current requirement is for at least six months); have completed a course in driver training (current law is the same); have an affidavit from a parent or guardian that the applicant has completed 50 hours of adult supervised driving, with at least 10 of those hours at night (current law is the same); and have not been convicted of a moving violation, violated seat belt restrictions, or violated the wireless communication device restriction as proposed in the bill (current law does not have such provisions). ¢ Driving curfew. For the first six months, the restricted licensee could operate the vehicle or motorcycle from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. (current law does not specify hours); while going to or from or in connection with any job (same as current law); when the licensee is accompanied by an adult who is at least 21 years of age, who holds a valid driver's license, who has at least one year of driving experience and who is in a seat beside the driver. In the case of a motorcycle, the licensee must be accompanied by an adult who is as least 21, holds a motorcycle license, has at least a year of driving experience and is driving a motorcycle nearby.¢ Passenger limit. When driving without a supervising driver, those with restricted licenses can have no more than one passenger under age 21, unless they are family members (a new provision).


ksknowall 11 years, 3 months ago

"No single life is more important than another," she said. "So if it is enforced, it should be enforced for everyone, not just that age group."

There is the "real" reason this is going to pass - one step closer to letting the gestapo stop us, to search us all for no good reason!

Wake up people - the government is not your friend.

redneckwoman 11 years, 3 months ago

Driving curfew not good. How many of you as teens was home before 9:00 p.m. after working? I sure wasn't. I worked til close at midnight and it took more than a hour to clean up. I didn't walk in the door most nights until after 1:00 a.m. and I lived near by.

craigers 11 years, 3 months ago

shadower, I agree. The last quote said it best, no one life is more important than another, so why only do this for teens? I think it is so lawmakers can say they care about the kids. Unfortunately there would be a much bigger stink being raised about this if the law was for all ages.

nut_case 11 years, 3 months ago

Heart disease and cancer kill 20x as many people as all accidents combined...if you narrow in on 'auto accidents where the occupant is not wearing a seatbelt' the ratio is substantially higher, still.

I used to joke that if the government really wanted us safe, they would control our diet and exercise. The scary part looks like that may be just around the corner.

Government should not be in the business of protecting people from themselves.

PotSmokinRepublican 11 years, 3 months ago

Unbelievable, the level of regulation we live with today. I can't believe we live in a society that doesn't give us the right to make easy decisions like this for ourselves. The founding father's are rolling in their graves.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 3 months ago

I think the emphsis on teens is because they tend to have the "live forever" mentality, most adults had the same mind set at the same age as the ones targeted by this. I think the key is to make the kids see that they are not immortal and the worst can and does happen to them as well.

schweppy 11 years, 3 months ago

Primary seatbelt laws save lives. Period. They should be in place for all drivers in Kansas and not just the teens.

To those of you who feel that the government shouldn't be in the business of protecting people from themselves how do you feel about the DUI laws? Surely you would also call for the removal of these laws since thier purpose is to protect people from injuring/killing themselves or others while drinking and driving. And probably not wearing a seatbelt no less.

These laws work to save lives and that's why they should be passed!

kansasbrandon 11 years, 3 months ago

The laws requiring the use of seatbelts are unconstitutional.

In a free society people should have the right to do as they please so long as what they are doing doesn't infringe on another person's rights.

That is why laws against drunk driving are good laws. People who drive drunk are more likely to infringe on someone elses rights by hitting them with their car.

But how does my not wearing a seat belt have anything to do with anyone but me?

This is nothing more than the Government assuming a parental role over it's citizens.

Yes, wearing seatbelts saves lives, but it's not the governments job to make people wear them. Just like it's not the governments job to make you wear sunscreen before you go to the beach. Sunscreen saves lives too. Should the government make laws requiring it's use or face a $60 fine?

ryan026 11 years, 3 months ago

The reason it is just for teens CURRENTLY is because it has a better chance of passing. There will be a push towards the adult drivers after this passes (hopefully). are incorrect. The leading cause of death ages 1-44 is trauma, 29% of those cases being related to MVC's. It is not heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. For all ages trauma is the 4th leading cause of death. The government is protecting people from themselves as well as my pocketbook. It costs ME money when people don't have on their seatbelts in higher insurance premiums and in needing a larger tax base to pay for the uninsured medical expenses (those that don't die have higher medical bills as well).

Airbags + seatbelts decrease the risk of injury 60%. There is no conspiracy. Just data

I agree there is too much regulation so how about this...for every law they pass, take one off the books. Just pass this one.

kansasbrandon 11 years, 3 months ago

The argument that seatbelt laws are good because it costs other people more in higher insurance premiums and taxes to pay for the medical expenses is a dangerous argument to make.

How far can this stance be taken? For instance, I like buttery popcorn. I know it's not good for me but I LIKE IT!

Should the governement be allowed to control the amount of butter on my popcorn because some day that butter may cause me to become seriously ill and have to go to the hospital?

justthefacts 11 years, 3 months ago

I have had two teen-aged relatives die b/c they were in horrible car wrecks and weren't wearing a seat belt; no guarantees of safety, I know, but getting thrown from a car is usually a real bad thing. I always put my belt on, and make sure the whole car is buckled up. And the argument that doing something that could result in you killing yourself only impacts you personally shows a lack of appreciation for the amount of havoc a death can have upon all concerned AND society = e.g. who pays for the funeral, who pays for the road clean up, who pays the salary of the cops who work the scene, who pays for the mental health therapy needed for the EMS workers who had to scrap you up afterwards, etc.? If you could figure out some way to hurt yourself that did not cost ME money (in taxes) I'd be happy to give you a "go free card" to do stupid/harmful things to yourself!

As much as I also dislike "big-brother" "in parentis locos" rules, and appreciate stupid gene pool erradication efforts, most laws that attempt to protect the health, safety and welfare of the general public - even for those folks who don't appreciate the effort - are deemed constitutional.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 3 months ago

Apparently our State Congress has nothing better to do than expend energy and resources on hashing out the fine print on seat belt laws.

Could we just pass a law that requires everyone to conduct their lives safely and just be done with this era of passing feel good laws that bloat our statute books with endless regulation and penalties. After we pass that law, let's pass another law requiring people to live mega-safely and up the penalties for not doing so. Then, let's repeat the process over and over until people live safely. This sounds absurd because it is absrud.

irnmadn88 11 years, 3 months ago

So don't make a law infringing on personal choice.

If car companies can make it so cars don't start unless the clutch is depressed or in park, just encourage the car companies to make it so the car won't start unless the seat belt is buckled. No, this technology shouldn't prevent the driver from unbuckling the seatbelt by shutting off the engine once started, but it would show intent if the driver were found to be not wearing it in a car equipped with such technology.

Maybe this is about as enforceable as removing the tag from a mattress.

gr 11 years, 3 months ago

"I have had two teen-aged relatives die b/c they were in horrible car wrecks and weren't wearing a seat belt;"

justthefacts could have educated her relatives. justthefacts killed her two teen-aged relatives. What should she be fined? Or how about jail time. It's the government's business in protecting people's lives at all costs - jail her.


On a more serious note.... A cop sees a young person driving without a seatbelt. The cop pulls them over and sure enough they were not wearing a seatbelt. Turns out the young person was 18. Question: Fine or no fine?

Janet Lowther 11 years, 3 months ago

If figure no seatbelt at all is safer than one that is loosely fitted.

Years ago, a friend of mine was called to the scene of an accident. A young lady had been involved in a crash and her body had been ripped in half by the seatbelt, the torso was ejected from the car while the legs and pelvis remained in place with the two halves connected by a trailing streamer of intestines. Needless to say my friend hasn't worn a seatbelt since.

Now, I'm sure her fatal injury was most likely brought on by wearing her lapbelt so loosely that her body was moving at a substantial velocity before encountering her seatbelt.

Even when snugly fitted, internal injuries are prone to occur in an accident along the line of the seat belt: In the early '90s a van pulled out in front of my Geo Prism. I declined treatment after the accident destroyed my car. I shouldn't have. That night I hurt so bad across the line of the seat belt I thought I was going to die. By the next morning I was over it, but that is the worst pain I have experienced to date by a wide margin.

When the weather is cold enough to bring out the insulated bibs and down coat, the seat belt remains retracted 'cause wearing all that stuff my body would fly six or eight inches before hitting the seatbelt, which could easily cause much worse internal injuries.

When I'm in my cold weather mode, I put my trust in the air bags, 'cause a loose seatbelt may be worse than no seatbelt.

The real reason for this legislation is to give the police just one more cause to harass citizens.

gr 11 years, 3 months ago

"Maybe this is about as enforceable as removing the tag from a mattress."

A customer removing a tag from their mattress is NOT against the law. Nothing to enforce.

irnmadn88 11 years, 3 months ago

A customer removing a tag from their mattress is NOT against the law. Nothing to enforce.

Yes, in the literal sense.

I was alluding to the power of the "mattress police" to enforce the tag not being removed as symbolic of the time and effort (read $$$) necessary for the police to enforce the seat belt law.

JayCat_67 11 years, 3 months ago

I agree with the enforcability problem. You can enact any law you want, but without the means to enforce it, it's just writing on a piece of paper. In theory, however, it seems like a good idea, but in practice. A police officer pulls over a nineteen year old driver who appears to not be wearing a seatbelt. I turns out that indeed they are unbuckled, but upon producing an ID indicating their age, then what? The driver is let go on the technicality that at that age the infraction can not be primary? If this is the case, then other than a quick "Sorry, can't do anything about it right now, but you need to wear your seatbelt," the officer has just wasted time and energy that could have been directed elsewhere. I appreciate the spirit of these folks are trying to accomplish, but sometimes it's a little more difficult to solve an issue than just passing another law.

JayCat_67 11 years, 3 months ago

But in practice... (hope that makes more sense)

farmgirl 11 years, 3 months ago

jrlii, how many accidents has your friend seen where the occupant was ejected from the vehicle and walked away? I'm guessing your friend has seen none where the occupant was belted and survived.

When I was in high school my mother was involved in a roll-over accident. She was wearing her seatbelt, and suffered only minor bruising.

About a year later, five seniors from my high school were involved in a roll-over accident. Three died, one was paralyzed, and the other had injuries severe enough to keep her in the hospital for a year. None of them were wearing seatbelts.

salad 11 years, 3 months ago

Ripped in half by a seat belt???? This is complete BS. A 3" belt spreads out the force quite substantially. About the only way this could happen is to be restrained with a 1/8" steel cable and hit a wall at 80 mph. So, from an engineering POV, your friends story is BS. Seatbelts work.

Crossfire 11 years, 3 months ago

When the seat belt law was enacted it was NEVER to be a primary stop. What is the next lie?

penguinatheart 11 years, 3 months ago

seatbelts DO affect people other than just you. we learned in driver's ed that the first person killed because of a lack of a seatbelt will be the person sitting in front of them, as their body goes flying to the front of the car. and do you really think that thirty seconds of "i'm invincible" from a teenager won't affect anyone else? ask their parents.

parents can tell their kids all they want that they need to wear a seatbelt, but they're not too likely to listen. $60 isn't a killer, but there goes your spending money for a couple weeks.

and you can complain all you want that you were bruised but it's your choice. bruised or paralyzed / dead.

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