House committee rejects stricter safety belt law

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 18 killed Senate Bill 901, which would have made seat belt violations primary offenses. The bill, proposed by Sen. Thomas Norment Jr., R-Williamsburg, also would have required all passengers in a vehicle to wear seat belts.

Under current law, a driver can be ticketed for a seat belt violation only if police have stopped the vehicle for another reason. Furthermore, only the front-seat passengers must wear seat belts.

The president of an anti-drunk driving group said he was disappointed but not surprised by the committee’s action.

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&uot;Virginia has balked at employing the single most effective measure to reduce crash-related deaths and injuries: the routine wearing of seatbelts,&uot; said Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of the Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

On Feb. 4, the Senate voted 29-11 to pass SB 901.

The House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee voted to pass the bill by indefinitely, effectively killing it for the 2005 session.

Twelve Republicans and one Democrat supported that motion. The Republicans were Beverly Sherwood of Winchester, Morgan Griffith of Salem, Glenn Weatherholtz of Harrisonburg, Terry Kilgore of Gate City, Allen Louderback of Luray, Thomas &uot;Tommy&uot; Wright of Victoria, Scott Lingamfelter of Woodbridge, Dave Nutter of Christiansburg, Clifford Athey of Front Royal, Clarke Hogan of South Boston, Bill Janis of Henrico and Ben Cline of Richmond. The Democrat was Albert Pollard of White Stone.

Four committee members, all Democrats, opposed the motion to kill SB 901. They were James M. Scott of Merrifield, Bill Barlow of Smithfield, Lynwood Lewis of Accomac and Paula Miller of Norfolk.

– Monty Kahlon and Ali Khan