Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Primary Seat Belt Legislation Approved in Senate

Press Release Date:  Friday, March 24, 2006  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Jodi Whitaker
Troy Body

Governor applauds senate for taking action to save lives

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky State Senate gave the green light to primary seat belt legislation today.  Provisions of the primary seat belt law were included in an amendment to House Bill 117, which dealt with a different issue.  HB 117, with the primary seat belt language, passed by a vote of 22-15 and now goes to the House. 

“I applaud the leadership shown by Senate President Williams and other members of the Senate. We can accomplish a lot when partisan politics is put aside. I urge Speaker Richards and the House to follow the Senate’s lead by passing HB 117 to save lives,” said Governor Ernie Fletcher.  “We know that a primary seat belt law will save at least 62 lives a year.  Adopting 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.”

Statistics show about 67 percent of Kentuckians wear their seat belt.  The state ranks 47th nationally in seat belt usage. 

Senate President David L. Williams (R-Burkesville) attached the seat belt language on to HB 117.  On the Senate floor today Sen. Williams said “This proposal will save lives and prevent serious injuries in Kentucky.  This issue has nothing to do with liberals and conservatives or whether you are good or bad.  It’s all about saving lives.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ed Worley (D-Richmond) also supported the seat belt provision.  “There has been a lot of police phobia associated with this bill.  That is not a good reason to oppose this measure,” said Senator Worley.  “If the measure saves the life of one child it’s worth it.”

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 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.