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Most people have heard of the term "tightening their belts" during tough times. It looks like states, however, may be tightening up their seat belt laws during the recession, and people who haven't been taking those laws seriously soon might end up helping their state deal with its budget woes. The AP reports that more and more states are looking at giving police the power to pull over drivers simply for not wearing their seat belts.
Many of us are aware of seatbelt laws, but states actually vary in how they enforce such laws. In some states, such as Ohio, police officers must have a separate reason to pull over a driver, such as speeding or some other traffic or mechanical violation, before they can slap down a citation for not wearing a seatbelt. These laws allow for what is known as "secondary" enforcement, as opposed to "primary" enforcement where an officer can make a stop simply for not buckling up. Ohio's not alone by a long-shot either in using secondary enforcement, as only about half of states have primary enforcement.
Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that states switching to primary enforcement are likely going to save lives, and the states will also receive the monetary bonus of having the door opened to federal funds that are otherwise unavailable.
Ohio says it would get $26.8 million if it changes its law, and as the vast majority of states struggle with growing deficits with no quick end in sight, this is likely to be just one of many cost-saving measures taken by states to try and diminish their estimated $350 billion in collective projected budget shortfalls over the next few years.
The AP reported that according to the NHTSA, states must pass their new laws by summer and begin enforcing them by September in order to get the federal money, so these changes could be occurring in short order. The links below provide some more information and can help people find out what kind of seat belts laws they have in their state.