JEFFERSON CITY - With the Missouri General Assembly convening today, MoDOT announced its top priority for 2009 is to save 90 lives per year by strengthening Missouri's safety belt law to allow for primary enforcement.
Of more than 500 Missouri traffic laws, the current safety belt law is the only one that has a secondary enforcement provision - a driver must break another law first before they can be cited for a safety belt violation.
"You can be pulled over for a cracked taillight, but not for endangering your life and the lives of others by driving without a safety belt," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. "Strengthening this law will save 90 lives and prevent 1,000 serious injuries at no cost to Missouri taxpayers. It's the right thing to do, and 2009 is the year to do it."
A 2008 survey shows that 76 percent of Missourians are buckling up - that number is virtually unchanged since 2004 and is consistently below the national average of 83 percent.
Missouri teens are even less likely to buckle up - only 62 percent. Between 2005-2007, 80 percent of teens that died in Missouri traffic crashes were not wearing a seat belt.
Amending the current law will also provide at least $16 million in a one-time federal incentive grant to use for safety enforcement, education and engineering - 2009 is the last year this grant is available.
MoDOT continues to work with the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, a partnership of safety advocates who have banded together to attack the problem of traffic crashes and deaths, to educate Missourians on the need for a primary safety belt law.
For more information on safety belt use and a primary safety belt law, visit the coalition's Web site at http://www.savemolives.com/.