Posted: Feb 1, 2013 8:18 AM by Marnee Banks
HELENA - The Montana Legislature is once again considering a bill which would allow law enforcement officers to pull drivers over for not wearing their seat belts.
Senator Brad Hamlett (D-Cascade) is carrying a bill which would penalize drivers with a $20 fine for not wearing safety restraints.
Police can currently pull a driver over if they suspect a child in the car is not properly restrained, but they can't pull over a driver if they suspect an adult isn't wearing their seat belt.
However, if a driver is not wearing a seat belt and is pulled over for another offense, such as speeding, the driver can be issued a seat belt citation.
The bill drew wide support from the law enforcement community, and also brought out a compelling story from a Montana mother whose daughter died in a tragic car accident.
The girl was not wearing a seat belt.
"Do you have any idea what it is like to go to the funeral home to say good-bye to your child and have their staff tell you not to touch her hair because they combed it that way to cover some of the injuries," Janet Bierer told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Not to pick her up and cradle her in your arms because the damage is quite severe, or for them to tell you that her hand is under the blanket and please don't pull back the cover?" she added.
Two opponents to the bill testified that requiring people to wear their seat belts is government overreach.
"The state's intrusion into our automobiles is a violation of our civil liberties and an abuse of their power," Helena resident Becky Stockton said. "There is no constitutional requirement for state and federal governments to protect people from their bad decisions."
The bill was considered in the 2011 Legislative session and it died in committee. Click here to read Senate Bill 186.