House pushes for a primary seat belt law

by John McClaughry

The Vermont House is off on another tear to pass a mandatory seat belt law for adults. For some years we’ve had a secondary seat belt offense on the books. If a cop stops a driver for a broken taillight, he can also ticket the driver for not wearing a seatbelt, for an additional penalty. But he can’t ticket somebody he just happens to notice is not wearing a seatbelt.

Now a majority in the House want to make it an offense to drive about not having your seatbelt buckled. More tickets! More paperwork! More fines! And all because only a reported 83% of Vermont drivers regularly buckle their seat belts.

What a primary seat belt law gives the cops is the opportunity to imagine a broken taillight, stop a safely operated car or truck, notice the driver’s unbuckled seatbelt, write that ticket, maybe smell some pot smoke, write another ticket, maybe confiscate the vehicle as evidence, and leave the driver to attempt to cut a plea bargain with the state’s attorney.

When I was in the Senate, I opposed a primary seat belt mandate, but supported a secondary seat belt bill that credited a driver with ten dollars off his fine for some other infraction, as a reward for being buckled up at the time of the incident. The House wouldn’t buy that, and the conference committee dissolved without acting. Maybe they ought to bring that idea back.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

R.H.Anderson April 28, 2017 at 5:05 pm

This new law is B.S. ,Not wearing your seat belt doesn’t endanger anyone else on the road , People on cell phones talking ,texting ,playing with their G.P.S.are distracted drivers endangering everyone else on the road !


Jim Bulmer April 28, 2017 at 9:35 pm

Nothing to do with safety, it’s a smoke screen for more revenue or to put it another way – it’s a fee in disguise.


Michael Sakash April 29, 2017 at 11:53 am

Of course, it has to do with saftey. Have you ever seen how a body gets thrown around inside a car when no seatbelt is in use? Furthermore, why is it that it usually the passengers that get killed in an automobile accident where no seatbelts are in use.

What they should be doing is beefing up the existing cell phone law and passing a law that would enable an officer to stop an automobile when they see a cell phone in use, for any reason. The ticket for this should be treated as seriously as any other impaired driving act would be treated.


Allen Godin April 29, 2017 at 4:12 am

I’m a little tired of being treated like a slave. I refuse to accept the burden of someone else’s hurt feelings. All seat belt laws are an unlawful restriction on personal liberties. I’m ashamed of a nation that can’t accept personal responsibility as a necessary part of freedom.

Compelling someone to buy something such as insurance to operate their automobile, or any other modern conveyance, is a form of tyranny just as much as the tax stamp act was in our founder’s day. Are we being represented when an unanswerable “legislature” makes any law they feel suits their election coffers?

They used to call that a bribe, but I’m sure today that voting your wallet instead of your little used conscience is just the right of a lord over his subjects. I have little regard for what passes in today’s world as representation.

Vermont is proving to be the communist ideal. A people too afraid to live on their own pleading with the State for every last thing. They just don’t know it. Please sir, can I build a house? Please sir, can I have a business?

There are always unintended consequences for those who are not far sighted enough to accept that a vote for a simple “safety measure” today will become gross miscarriage of justice tomorrow. Look at the last round of “good for you” laws about using electronic devices while driving. They are already looking at stronger measures because that “law” didn’t go far enough to “protect” everyone.


This is not a kindergarten playground, it’s real life.

This would have nothing to do with “revenue” if corruption wasn’t the game in Montpelier. I do not relish working for those who would see me subject to their desires, so I put it to those who read this. Are you just another taxpayer sending your earnings to those who would just take it? The proposed “savings” the State would realize if the teacher health care contract can be passed would be shifted to take your money for another folly of the professionally needy.

I feel sorry for those in real need. It is a compassionate society that makes less use of laws to solve people’s problems and who allow people to decide for themselves according to their conscience.


Michael Sakash April 29, 2017 at 12:07 pm

The driver is responsible for their passengers. I, for one, will not let a person ride in my car unless they fasten their seatbelt.

A car needs to be insured so that you don’t have to pay all of the damage caused in an accident out of your own pocket.

I also disagree with many of the laws on the books. However, since a human cannot be trusted to do the right thing all of the time, we need laws to protect the people who have been mistreated.

Montpelier is trying to turn Vermont into the first Communist locality the America thanks to Bernie but laws that protect one form being mistreated by another need to be on the books.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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