Missoula senator carries primary seat belt law

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

Senate Bill 9 would create a primary seat belt law in Montana. That means authorities would be able to pull someone over solely for not wearing a seatbelt.

Dick Barrett

Democratic Sen. Dick Barrett of Missoula is carrying the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard the bill Thursday morning.

“With primary enforcement, more Montanans will use seat belts, and fewer Montanans will die, or be seriously injured on our roads,” Barrett said. “That is what the statistics tell us.”

An opponent to the bill, Mark French of Thompson Falls, thinks Americans should have the freedom to make the choice themselves.

“The purpose of government is not to keep us safe,” French said Thursday. “The purpose of government is to secure our God-given inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s the purpose.”

Under the bill, adults could be fined $20 for not wearing a seatbelt. If a child is not restrained properly, the driver could be fined up to $100.

Thirty-four states currently have primary seat belt laws.

Cole Grant 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.