New bill would allow traffic stops for seatbelt violations

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JEFFERSON CITY - A new bill would allow law enforcement to pull over drivers solely for seatbelt violations.

H.B. 888 has its first public hearing Monday.

Under current law, a seatbelt violation is a secondary offense, meaning a driver can only get ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt if they have already been pulled over for a more serious offense.

The law currently says no person shall be "stopped, inspected, or detained solely to determine compliance" with seatbelt policy.

The bill's sponsor Rory Rowland, D-Independence, wants to delete this line entirely, effectively letting law enforcement perform a traffic stop solely for seatbelt enforcement.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop F Sergeant Scott White said drivers can't predict when emergencies or crashes will happen.

"The important thing about a seatbelt, it helps keeps you secure, helps you ride down the forces of a crash if you are involved in a crash." White said.  "Once that bad thing happens, once that harmful event begins there's not really anything you can do at that point."

"The reality of driving is it is the first privilege we earn in our lives that allows us to kill another human being without any intent whatsoever, and that's why we need to do everything right behind the wheel every single time," White said. 

Six out of 10 Missourians killed in traffic crashes were not wearing a seatbelt, according to seat belt data from the Missouri Department of Transportation. 

192 fatalities have happened in the state as of April 22, 2019. According to Arrive Alive, 59 percent of them weren't wearing seatbelts.