By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service
HELENA – A legislative committee tabled a bill Friday that would have allowed an officer to stop a car solely because of a seat belt violation.
Senate Bill 9 was introduced by Democratic Sen. Dick Barrett of Missoula, who said it would curtail the number of fatalities and serious injuries on Montana highways. Barrett said at a hearing Thursday recorded and archived by the Legislature that Montana has one of the worst records in any state in the country.
“Such fatalities and injuries occur in our state at rates well above the national average,” Barrett said.
The committee heard emotional testimonies for and against the bill.
Republican Sen. Keith Regier said at Friday’s committee hearing that Montana already has a seat belt law. He compared Montanans wearing helmets on bikes to Montanans wearing seat belts.
“There’s not a bike helmet law that I know of. It’s attitude, and that’s the same kind of attitude that we need to build in people with seat belts,” Regier said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee tabled the bill on a 7-to-4 vote. Republicans voted against it, while the Democrats supported the bill.
Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.