JEFFERSON CITY - A proposal to raise Missouri's fines for seat belt violations gained support Wednesday from the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The legislation by Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, proposes to increase the fine from $10 to $50 for people caught not wearing seat belts in vehicles. A similar bill has died each of the past three years in the transportation committee. Keaveny hopes a higher fine would encourage more people to buckle up, especially teens.
"Fifty dollars is a lot of money for a teenager. So if we could bring that 66-percent up, we could bring that 79-percent up, and we'd be closer to the national average," said Keaveny.
The percentage of people using seat belts in Missouri lags behind the national average. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Missouri's overall usage of safety belts stood at 79% in 2011. The national average stood at 84%. In Missouri teens, safety belt usage stood at 67.4-percent in 2011. For more information on safety belt usage in Missouri through the years, click here.
The bill drew support from police, insurance, doctors' and trucking groups. Committee Chairman Senator Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said he wants to advance the bill to the full Senate for debate.
"With a fine that's only $10, it's often overlooked," said Senator Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown.
"I really don't have much opposition to the $50 fine. It's been proven that seat belts do save lives. I do like to wear mine. But I don't think it should be mandatory," added Munzlinger.
Keaveny expects the bill to go to vote.