Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Primary Safety Belt Law, Economic Recovery Top Transportation Agenda

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn is passionate about transportation. But he says he's never been as dedicated to a cause as he is to persuading the Missouri General Assembly to change the state's existing seat belt law to allow primary enforcement.

"If Missouri legislators had passed a primary safety belt law when I first asked them four years ago, about 360 people would still be alive," Rahn said. "You can be pulled over for a burned out license plate light, but not for endangering your life and the lives of others by driving without a safety belt. It just doesn't make sense to me."

Rahn said changing the law would save an estimated 90 lives a year and prevent 1,000 serious injuries. The state also stands to gain at least $16 million in a one-time federal incentive grant to use for safety enforcement, education and engineering. This is the last year the grant is available.

Rahn said Missouri voters were to thank for recent improvements that have made state highways safer. Their approval of Amendment 3 in 2004 redirected highway user funds to MoDOT and enabled the department to make roads smoother and install median guard cable, rumble stripes, wider striping and larger signs. Those improvements, along with education and enforcement by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and other safety partners, have led to a 24 percent decrease in traffic fatalities over the past three years.

But while the total number of highway fatalities decreased last year, the number of deaths where people were not wearing safety belts increased - from 478 in 2007 to 485 in 2008.

"We need a new approach if we're going to continue to save lives, and that approach needs to be a primary safety belt law," Rahn said.

MoDOT is also looking forward to the possibility of additional funding for transportation projects from a federal economic recovery act. The agency has 34 projects it could be ready to go with upon passage of a federal economic recovery act. The projects, which total $510 million, would create about 14,000 jobs and have a $2.4 billion impact on the state's economy.

While the proposed recovery package would help, Rahn said, it won't stop the slide in transportation funding the state is facing.

"Our budget for construction and maintenance is headed toward levels we haven't seen since 2003 when only 44 percent of Missouri's major roads were in good condition," Rahn said. "Today, 83 percent of our roads are in good condition.

"We have to ask ourselves if we're going to stand by and let our roads fall back into disrepair, or if we're going to do something to make sure we have a transportation system that will create jobs for the state, ease congestion and save lives."

Rahn said there are a variety of ways to increase funding for transportation. The challenge is finding one the public will support.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. But along with this I belive children should be in a seat belt on a bus also.

ShawnP said...

Freedom is about choices Commissioner Rahn. As one who fought for Freedom for 20 years in our military. It is a sad day when MODOT makes it official policy to throw away the very freedom my sweat, blood and tears provided. Shame on you Commissioner and MODOT. We all agree not wearing a seat belt is stupid. However grown adults have the right to be stupid and MODOT should not be taking away from their right to be stupid. Worry more about broken bridges and roads than seatbelts MODOT !!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is another example of the Washington with holding our tax dollars to force states to pass laws that no one wants. It is crazy to think that it wont be abused by law enforcement. How could they be sure your belt not on. How about probable cause.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think that all the MSHP, Sheriff's dept, and city cops have to do is worry about who has a seat belt on and who doesn't? If I choose to wear one or not it is my choice not some political figure that is just there to worry about where the next vote is coming from so they can have another term. MODOT needs to worry about fixing roads instead of seat belts. I have been to alot of accidents and yes, seat belts would have saved some lives, but I also have seen some that if they would have had one on they would have been dead, but you don't want people to know that.

Robin B said...

FREEDOM we have let the govenment take it away from belts dont always save lives so using that is a cop out.. if GOD WANTS YOU THAT BELT WILL NOT MATTER OH NO I SAID GOD THEY TOOK THAT RIGHT AWAY TO NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOD IN THE GOVENMENT . we fought once before caues we didnt have rights maybe the people should think about it again.. LET FREEDOM RING..

Anonymous said...

I don't see why I should have to pay higher insurance rates (medical, life and auto) for your refusal to wear a seat belt. I support the measure to require seat belts.

Anonymous said...

I hope the legislature will vote this down yet again. If my local reps vote for this law, I will no longer support them in future elections. The state has their nose in our business enough already.

Anonymous said...

I hope the legislature will vote this down yet again. If my local reps vote for this law, I will no longer support them in future elections. The state has their nose in our business enough already.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, driving is not a right, it is a privilege. Any judge will tell you that when you lose your license. See page 81 of the Missouri Drivers Handbook.

Deeds said...

ShawnP, when that drunk driver hits someone head-on at 50 m.p.h., it is going to take more than FREEDOM to keep them from flying out your windshield and having their head explode on the pavement.If they are lucky enough to live, guess who covers the Medicaid?

vickyb said...

I read in the Sedalia Democrat about Pete Rahn pushing for the seat belt law.
I just wanted to say I think him saying it has nothing to do with the $16 million to $20 million in federal safety incentive money was a joke. Does he really think anyone believes that? He really should go to the Sedalia Democrat online edition and read the comments being made by readers! You may fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of them all the time. We are wising up to our government. We do not believe nor trust you as the government. But, that doesn't bother anyone in the government does it?

Anonymous said...

I could care less what other ppl do with their lives. If they want to risk death by not wearing a seat belt, you won't find me caring.

But when their freedom to risk death strains MY wallet due to the higher health insurance, etc there is something wrong.