32 states have implemented “Click it or Ticket” laws. Under these laws, officers have the right to stop drivers if either drivers or passengers are seen not wearing seat belts. Yet, 18 states treat failure to wear a seat belt as a secondary offense. This means that an officer can issue citations, but only if the offense of not wearing a seat belt is discovered during a pull-over for another offense. An officer in these states cannot stop drivers simply for observing that individuals in the car have failed to wear seat belts. Idaho is one such state.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt compliance often reaches 90% in states in which seat belt use is treated as a primary enforcement law. Compliance is high in states where officers can pull drivers over for failure to wear a seat belt. In states where seat belt use is secondarily enforced, seat belt compliance is only 78%.
We know that seat belts save lives. We know that failure to wear a seat belt increases a vehicle rider’s risk of dying or being seriously injured in a crash. Almost all states have laws requiring individuals to wear seat belts. Given these facts, one wonders why Idaho hasn’t implemented primary seat belt enforcement laws.
Some legislators are pushing to make failure to properly restrain a child in a motor vehicle a primary offense. While few individuals would argue with the importance of ensuring that children are properly restrained, some legislators worry about how such a law would be properly enforced. Some opponents of the law feel that the state shouldn’t have the right to tell people what to do or tell people how to parent. Some consider primary seat belt laws intrusion of the government into the personal lives of citizens. Yet, it is clear that the state has an interest in keeping people safe when they hit the road. The Centers for Disease Control affirms that higher seat belt usage leads to more lives saved. When it comes to children, who may or may not be old enough to gauge the risks themselves, it seems logical for the state to create harsher penalties or increase enforcement to ensure that children are restrained.
Yet, opponents also worry about the increased risk to officers. One of the most dangerous times to be a police officer is during a roadside stop where the officer is vulnerable to getting hit and killed.
Should Idaho make itself a “Click it or Ticket” state? The debate continues. In the meantime, the seat belt use rate hovers at 78%. The Law Office of Johnson & Lundgreen sees countless preventable car accidents each year. Seat belt use can help prevent unnecessary injury or death.