North Dakota committee votes down seatbelt bill

Local News

North Dakota lawmakers voted in committee on Thursday to keep the state’s seatbelt law the same. Currently, if you aren’t buckled up, police can’t pull you over for that reason alone, but a bill could change that.

Law enforcement, safety groups and even a representative from General Motors testified in support of the bill. They say the law alone would increase compliance by about 10 percent, and save five lives a year.

One supporters’ testimony explained an accident her family member was in, that would’ve been much worse without a seatbelt.

“She was hanging upside down by the seatbelt that saved her life. She unbuckled it, she fell to the seat and she got out, and she said Auntie Carma, ‘It hit me that day that I likely would’ve been dead’ because from where that crash started to where it ended up were volleyball bags, tennis shoes and their jerseys strewn about that highway,” Carma Hanson, Coordinator for Safe Kids Grand Forks, said.

Those opposed say the bill would infringe on personal freedom. Some representatives during the hearing brought up improving road signage, like delineators on highways, that could help prevent crashes in the first place, as an alternative to updating the law.

Others who testified said they didn’t think a law would increase compliance.

“You can call them stubborn, or ornery or bullheaded, but I have three friends that refuse to buckle up. They are not stupid. A $20 fine will not get them to buckle up, or $50 or $100. The $200 fine might persuade one but the other two, never. Ten lashes with a leather whip would probably get them to reconsider,” Tom Wheeler of Ray, North Dakota said.

North Dakota has the seventh-lowest rate of seatbelt usage in the country. The committee gave the bill a do not pass recommendation, but it will still go to the full House for a vote in the coming weeks.

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