Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

April 13, 2013

Buckle up Seat belt bill awaits Tomblin’s signature

— Get ready to buckle up in the Mountain State. If Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signs legislation approved by both the House and Senate into law, not wearing a seat belt in the Mountain State will soon become a primary offense.

That means police officers will be able to pull drivers over for not wearing a seat belt without having to stop the motorist for another moving violation first. The bill passed the Senate on a 24-10 vote last week after surviving a contentious debate in the House where it was narrowly approved.

The fine for failing to wear a seat belt under the soon-to-be-law would be $25, with no court costs or points on a driver’s license, the Associated Press reported.

Tomblin told the Register-Herald in Beckley last week that he will most likely sign the legislation into law — pointing to the fact that the measure will help to improve the safety of traveling motorists. If Tomblin signs the bill, it will become law within 90 days.

Lawmakers contend that the bill will save lives. And they are correct. Seat belts do save lives.

However, opponents of the legislation believe that seat belt usage should be a matter of personal responsibility and freedom. But it is still hard to argue against public safety.

And one should look no further than the mountainous roads right here in southern West Virginia as reason to buckle up. Take U.S. Route 52 from Mercer into McDowell counties as an example. It’s been called the highway that time forgot for a good reason. And when roads such as Route 52 are snow-covered, or simply wet, that danger is further enhanced. Buckling up should be considered a given on our mountainous roads.

We suspect Tomblin will sign the seat belt measure into law. If he does, West Virginia would join 32 other states in making seat belt usage a primary law. And the seat belt law would then join both the ban on using hand-cell phones and texting while driving, both of which become primary offenses July 1 in the Mountain State.

So now would be a good time to start buckling up. Get yourself into the habit now of wearing your sealt belt.

After a while of using a seat belt buckling up should become a part of your normal driving routine. Statistics prove that seat belts can save lives. It just makes good common sense to buckle up while driving — even if it’s just a short distance down the road.

In the meantime, please don’t text while driving, and don’t talk on your cell phone will driving. Doing so makes you a distracted driver, and a danger to yourself and other motorists on the road.

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