Archive for Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Toothless law

Starting Friday, cities like Lawrence will be forced to lower their seat-belt fines to a level that will be easy for many motorists to ignore.

June 28, 2011


Last year, Kansas legislators passed a seat belt law with a fine so low that there is little or no incentive to abide by it.

This year, they made sure all Kansas cities would have to do the same.

A new law went into effect on July 1, 2010, that made it a primary offense for people 18 and older not to wear a seat belt. That means that motorists can be stopped simply for a seat belt violation even if no other violation occurred. They also can be charged a fine — but not much of one. The previous fine for a seat belt violation was $30 plus court costs. On July 1, 2010, the fine dropped to $5; on Friday it will rise to $10. However both of the latter fines include court costs.

It was clear at the time that legislators passed the primary seat belt law, not because they wanted to save Kansas lives, but because they wanted the $11 million in federal highway dollars to which the law would give them access. The “threat” of a $5 or $10 fine isn’t a serious incentive to wear a seat belt.

Nonetheless, legislators this year decided to extend their folly to cities, which previously had been allowed to charge higher fines within their city limits. In Lawrence, the fine has been $40 plus $60 in court costs; similar fines existed in other Kansas cities. However, starting Friday, no city will be allowed to charge more than a $10 fine for a seat belt violation. And that must include court costs, which means cities and their municipal courts will have to bear the financial burdens of any effort to enforce the seat belt law while receiving only minimal income from fines and no payment for court costs.

Last August, after the $5 fine went into effect, Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller was among those who noted the fine’s lack of deterrence and supported higher fines for the seat belt law. Rather than responding to that concern, legislators made the situation worse with their mandate to cities.

The primary purpose of state and municipal traffic laws is to increase safety on Kansas roads and highways and protect Kansas motorists. Raising the speed limit on many highways while lowering the incentive for drivers and their passengers to wear life-saving seat belts seems contrary to those goals.


John Hamm 6 years, 12 months ago

But the "purpose of a law" is NOT to allow some municipalities to generate easy revenue. Lot of griping because the fine is being reduced but I haven't seen that the Court costs are. So the fine drops from $40 to $10 but the Court costs remain at $60....... I see something wrong here and it ain't the fine.

jafs 6 years, 12 months ago

It says several times in the article that the $10 fine must include court costs.

jlcrawdad 6 years, 11 months ago

Thank you....It just goes to show people do not read what is written, but only what they think it is saying, that is how things get turned around.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago


Have they stopped teaching reading comprehension in schools?

Scott Drummond 6 years, 12 months ago

Maybe the legislators are creating those jobs we heard so much about!

KU_cynic 6 years, 12 months ago

How about some serious reporting, LJW? For instance, how many seat belt violations were ticketed in Lawrence and Douglas County last year? I bet it was a small number. Perhaps freeing up our public safety personnel from "nanny-state" duties would allow them more time to address important crime and public safety issues.

I am much more concerned about whether children are properly restrained in vehicles, yet all the time I see kids riding in cars without seat belts, booster seats, and even toddler seats. How often do police and sheriffs deputies ticket drivers for child restraint violations?

Phillbert 6 years, 12 months ago

Republicans say they're all about "local control" - by that they mean controlling what local governments do. That's why they pass laws like this and pass on the cost of state budget cuts on to the cities and counties.

appleaday 6 years, 12 months ago

What adults choose to do or not do to care for themselves is one thing, but children don't get to choose who their parents are. Does this law have any different fines for children who are not buckled in or in carseats? I know that when the seatbelt laws were passed, the child safety laws were passed first.

jlcrawdad 6 years, 11 months ago

I think that is good. I believe it is your right to choose to wear or not wear. You know the danger, and it is not endangering anyone but yourself.

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