Senate Committee Endorses Stronger Seat Belt Bill

FEBRUARY 26, 2007 - Posted at 1:42 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - A Senate panel has endorsed a bill that would allow police to stop a vehicle for the sole reason that a driver is not wearing a seat belt.

The Senate Transportation Technology and Legislative Affairs today recommended the proposal by Senator Hank Wilkins IV, a Democrat from Pine Bluff. The measure would make failure to use a seat belt a primary offense.

Wilkins says he hoped the proposal would help reduce the number of traffic fatalities in the state related to the lack of seat belt use.

He said that if enacted, the measure would open up $9.5 million in one-time federal funding for the state to be used for highway safety construction, overtime for highway officers, and educational programs.

A representative of the state Public Defenders Commission spoke against the bill, saying she was concerned it would allow some officers to racially profile and harass minority drivers under the guise of law enforcement.

Wilkins' bill now goes to the Senate.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)