The state Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the Missouri Insurance Coalition testified for Missouri primary seat belt legislation during a Monday hearing in Jefferson City.
House Bill 888 is sponsored by State Rep. Rory Rowland, D-Independence. State Rep. Jerome Barnes, D-Raytown, presented the legislation to the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee on Monday. Barnes notes that Rowland had transportation issues getting to the Capitol on Monday.
Barnes supports the bill, which would allow Missouri law enforcement officers to enforce the seat belt law as a stand-alone offense.
“I think sometimes (that) safety should out rule and overrule, and I think this is a safety bill,” Barnes testifies.
Under Representative Rowland’s bill, a motorist could be stopped if there is a reasonable belief that the stop is necessary to determine if the motorist is wearing a properly adjusted seat belt.
Barnes tells State Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee’s Summit, that this is about saving lives. Ingle is the committee’s ranking Democrat.
“I’ve seen, you know, where a car clipped a car that was kind of speeding, it clipped it and that car flipped several times and if you watched the video real closely you can see that body flying out the window,” says Barnes.
The chairman of that task force, former State Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, tells Missourinet states with a primary seat belt law have a seven percent greater use of seat belts.
The 2018 task force report noted that 64 percent of Missourians killed on the road in 2017 were not wearing seat belts.
Meantime, two southeast Missouri GOP lawmakers who are former law enforcement officers are raising concerns about primary seat belt legislation.
State Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering, the committee’s vice chairman, opposes Rowland’s bill. McDaniel says this is a freedom issue to him. He also says Missouri shouldn’t have seat belt or helmet laws.
“I see MoDOT put their numbers on the signs that say x amount of fatalities result from unbuckled. Well, some accidents no matter what, I’ve seen plenty of them, buckled or unbuckled, those individuals are going to die,” McDaniel says.
Representative McDaniel is a former deputy Sheriff in the Bootheel’s Pemiscot County.
State Rep. Barry Hovis, R-Cape Girardeau, also says this is a freedom issue. He tells the committee that he makes his children wear their seat belts, but not because there’s a law.
Hovis has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience.
But bill supporters say action is necessary. The task force report noted that Missouri ranked 50th in the National Safety Council’s safety report.
MoDOT’s Lisa LeMaster, the Missouri State Medical Association’s Heidi Sutherland and the Missouri Insurance Coalition’s Brandon Koch testified for the primary seat belt law on Monday.
The committee did not vote. Committee Chairman Kenneth Wilson, R-Smithville, tells Missourinet it was worth having a hearing.
Asked if the bill would go anywhere this late in the session, Wilson replied “You know anything is possible. In Jefferson City, anything is possible.”
The 2019 session ends on May 17.
Click here to listen to the full eight-minute hearing of Missouri’s Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, which took place on April 29, 2019 at the Statehouse in Jefferson City:
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