Current Colorado law requires drivers and front-seat passengers to be buckled up, but it is a secondary offense, meaning it cannot be cited or ticketed unless a driver has been pulled over for another traffic offense. The legislation would have made the violation a primary offense.
The Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony Tuesday afternoon on Senate Bill 110 before its sponsor, Sen. Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora) withdrew her measure when it became clear she did not have the votes to pass it.
"My prime job as a legislator is to protect freedom, to protect the freedom of individuals to do what they want to do," Sen. Mike Kopp (R-Jefferson County) said. "We could probably mandate all kinds of things that would keep people safe. We could make them drive 35 miles per hour. We could make them wear a helmet in their car. We could make everybody wear a helmet if they're doing something unsafe. It would certainly keep people more safe, but they'd be less free."
Statistics show 81.7 percent of Coloradans, or four of every five, wear seat belts. That means more than 898,000 Coloradans do not buckle up.
The national average wearing their seat belts is 83 percent. Advocates of making seat belt use a primary offense cited an estimate from the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) that seat belt use would increase by approximately 7 percentage points if the measure were passed. They further estimated that would save the lives of 26 Coloradans who would be buckled up as a result of the legislation.
"The goal here isn't to write tickets," said Col. Jim Wolfinbarger, the head of the Colorado State Patrol. "The goal here is to get people buckled up so that fewer people are dying in our cars."
With the rejection of the policy, Colorado lost an opportunity to win a $12 million grant from the federal government to be used on highway safety projects.
Supporters say they will try again next year.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)