Topeka Kansas legislators approved a bill Tuesday making the failure to wear a seat belt a primary traffic offense, ending a nearly decade-long battle over the issue.
The vote was 68-55 to send the bill to Gov. Mark Parkinson for his signature. The measure was supported with hope it would unlock federal funds Kansas could use for safety and transportation programs.
"This is a a compromise that will do what we want to do in the state of Kansas. We will save lives by requiring seat belts," said Rep. Jerry Henry, a Cummings Democrat.
The bill would allow a law enforcement officer to stop a motorist solely for failing to wear a seat belt. For the first year, the fine would be $5 and $10 in the second, with no court costs for either year. The fine is the minimum allowed by federal law.
Opponents argued that while the measure may encourage Kansans to be safer, it continued a federal policy to hold out the promise of money if states take specific policy actions.
"I'm still not a great supporter of having someone tell me to wear my seat belt," said House Transportation Committee Chairman Gary Hayzlett, a Lakin Republican. "I'm not comfortable with the federal government telling me to do something to get my money back."
Kansas is expected to receive some $10 million in federal transportation dollars for enacting the new law.
Two other traffic safety bills won final approval Monday.
One bans texting while driving, with exceptions for voice-activated devices and messages sent to emergency personnel.
The other bill would require anyone convicted of a second offense of driving under the influence to place an interlock device on a vehicle's ignition. The device tests the driver's breath for alcohol and won't allow the vehicle to start if alcohol is detected.