Seat belt bill passes Senate, awaits governor's signature
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians better make sure to buckle up.
The state Senate passed legislation Wednesday that makes failure to wear a seat belt a primary traffic offense.
State senators voted 24-10 to approve the bill (HB2108) Wednesday. The House approved the measure March 28. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin plans to sign the bill into law.
"This is the most effective thing West Virginia could do to reduce highway deaths," said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. "We know from other states that with this law, belt use will go up and lives will be saved."
West Virginia will become the 35th state with a primary offense seat-belt law.
"This brings us in line with the other states," said state Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.
The stricter seat-belt law will carry a $25 fine, but no additional court costs. Violators also won't receive points on their driver's record.
In 1993, the Legislature passed a secondary offense seat-belt law. The law made it a traffic violation to not wear a seat belt, but motorists could only be cited after being stopped by police for other traffic offenses.
Under the bill passed Wednesday, police could pull over motorists for a seat-belt violation alone.
The bill also prevents auto insurers from canceling coverage for violations of the seat-belt law, or because of state laws that prohibit using a cellphone or texting while driving.
In previous years, the Senate has repeatedly advanced primary-offense seat-belt legislation, but the House of Delegates rejected the bills until this year.
Opponents said the bill would infringe on people's rights. Critics also said the seat-belt law would be difficult to enforce.
Supporters said the bill would increase seat-belt use and save lives.
West Virginia will receive up to $1.5 million a year in additional federal highway safety funds because of the new law, according to the national Governor's Highway Safety Association.
The stricter seat-belt law would take effect 90 days after the governor signs the bill.
Reach Eric Eyre at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4869.