All occupants in a vehicle would be required to wear seat belts under a bill heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee Feb. 9.
Currently, not wearing a seat belt is enforced only as a secondary offense when the driver is pulled over for a primary offense, such as speeding. LB669, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, would make the state’s current seat belt requirement a primary offense, rather than secondary, for all vehicle occupants.
Krist said that Nebraska is one of only 16 states that does not have a primary seat belt law.
“There has been a notable increase in traffic deaths in recent years. Of the 189 killed in Nebraska in 2014, almost 70 percent were not wearing a seat belt,” he said. “If we are truly serious about public safety, we need to pay attention to those that are driving [without seat belts].”
Rose White, representing AAA Nebraska, supported the bill, calling the state’s current seat belt law “weak.”
“Legislators in other states have recognized that the implementation of evidence-based policies like primary seat belt laws truly benefit the citizens of the state,” White said. “[LB669] would allow Nebraskans to realize the law’s maximum potential and make it a primary offense.”
Bruce Beins, representing the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Association, also supported the bill.
“If you’re not a seat belt proponent when you [start a career as a first responder], you will be one very quickly,” he said. “One of the functions the government has is protecting the public and I do think we need to protect the public in this case.”
George Ferebee, of Edgar, opposed the bill. Rather than a seat belt mandate, he said, the state’s focus should be on providing better driver education to new drivers so accidents can be prevented in the first place.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.