Our Opinion: Buckle up and address primary issue
Friday, February 15, 2013
Is failure to buckle a seat belt an offense or isn’t it?
Missouri lawmakers can’t seem to decide.
Now, they are considering increasing the punishment for violating an existing half-measure — the state’s seat belt law.
Missouri has a secondary seat belt law, which means motorists can be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt, but only if they are pulled over for another traffic violation.
This quasi-criminal statute is not the only half-measure Missouri has enacted into law.
Equally inexplicable — and irrational — is our ban on texting while driving, but only for motorists age 21 and younger. Ironically, the ban applies to members of the age group who likely are among the most proficient texters.
With regard to the secondary seat belt law, legislators are considering a measure to raise the fine from $10 to $50.
At a recent hearing, saving lives was the goal cited by a number of senators, including Jefferson City’s Mike Kehoe. Support for the measure also was voiced by law enforcement officers, physicians, truckers and insurance officials.
We don’t disagree.
But, if we follow the absurdity of the law, we are attempting to save the lives only of motorists who commit a second traffic violation that permits imposing the higher fine for the seat belt offense.
Similarly nonsensical is the law designed to protect only motorists age 21 and younger from injury and fatal accidents linked to texting while driving.
It’s almost as if these laws had been written by Dr. Seuss.
Our quarrel is not with increasing the fine for seat belt violations.
But enhancing half-measures is not a comprehensive approach to saving lives.
If the goal is public safety, why are lawmakers reluctant to push primary laws that apply to everyone?
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