Assembly votes to expand seat belt laws

Published 10:12 pm Thursday, March 4, 2010

RICHMOND — The House of Delegates has joined the Senate in passing a bill that will require a motor vehicle’s back-seat passengers who are under 18 to wear seat belts. Currently, Virginia’s seat-belt law applies only to passengers under 16.

The House voted 81-17 on Tuesday in favor of Senate Bill 219, sponsored by Sen. Janet D. Howell, D-Reston.

The Senate had previously approved the bill, 39-1, with Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield, dissenting.

The House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee voted 19-1 last week to recommend that delegates adopt the bill.

Also last week, the same committee put a red light on a bill to make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense in Virginia.

The panel tabled Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Harry B. Blevins, R-Chesapeake. This measure, which previously cleared the Senate, 24-16, would have made failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense instead of a secondary.

As a result, police may cite drivers for a seat-belt violation only if they are committing another offense, such as speeding or running a red light.

On an unrecorded voice vote in January, the subcommittee killed a similar proposal, House Bill 901, sponsored by Delegate William K. Barlow, D-Smithfield.