Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Governor Commends House Committee for Passage of Primary Seat Belt Bill

Press Release Date:  Thursday, February 09, 2006  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Jodi Whitaker
Troy Body

Doug Hogan

Measure now goes before the full House for a vote

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The House Transportation Committee gave the green light to primary seat belt legislation today, legislation Governor Fletcher strongly supports.  House Bill 86, committee substitute, was adopted by the committee this morning. 

“I commend the committee for the passage of this bill and strongly encourage the entire body to pass it unanimously,” said Governor Fletcher. “Nothing is more important than the lives of our citizens. We need a primary seat belt law now.”

“A primary seat belt law is the single most important thing we can do in this state to reduce fatalities and serious injuries caused by vehicle crashes,” said Transportation Cabinet Secretary Bill Nighbert.  “I applaud the members of the committee and the leadership shown by Governor Fletcher to bring this issue to the forefront.  This is about saving lives.”

Statistics show about 67 percent of Kentuckians wear their seat belts.  The state ranks 47th nationally in seat belt usage.  If the seat belt bill becomes law, at least 62 lives will be saved in the first year. 

Representative Charlie Hoffman (D-Georgetown) is a sponsor of the bill and presented it to the committee.  “This is one of the most important pieces of legislation before the 2006 General Assembly.  There is one purpose in mind with the primary seat belt law and that is a law that more Kentuckians can live with in more ways than one.”

“The overall impact of a primary seat belt law will be to increase seat belt usage and save lives.  That’s what we are looking for in this bill,” stated Representative Rob Wilkey (D-Scottsville) who is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Representative Hubert Collins (D-Wittensville) said, “With this legislation we will have one seat belt law in Kentucky without confusing designations.”

“The time has come to pass this legislation. Our cars are built differently, our speed limits have changed and we have to change to protect our people,” said Representative Marie Rader (R-McKee).  The committee’s vice-chairwoman went on to say “if my vote can save one life, it's worth whatever sacrifice I make.”

A primary seat belt law would give law enforcement officers the authority to pull over a motorist simply for not wearing a seat belt.  Currently, a driver has to commit another traffic offense before he or she can be pulled over for not being buckled up.

Recent research from the University of Kentucky’s Transportation Center and from the Kentucky Institute of Medicine revealed some startling projections concerning the impact a primary seat belt law would have on Kentucky families and the state’s economy.  Some of the highlights include:

  • At least 62 fewer fatalities per year
  • 388 fewer incapacitating spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries
  • 1,051 fewer non-incapacitating injuries from accidents involving passenger vehicles and light trucks.
  • Kentucky’s Medicaid budget would save a minimum of $40.9 million over 10 years, including $2.2 million the first year and $585,000 per year for long-term medical care.
  • Kentucky would save $324 million in comprehensive costs (lost life years and productivity). 

The recently approved federal highway reauthorization bill includes another incentive for a primary seat belt law.  Under the federal bill, if Kentucky adopts a primary seat belt law, the state will get an additional $11.2 million in federal funds to use for safety improvements on state roads. 

The bill now goes on to the full House of Representatives for a vote.