Jennifer McCartha is already wearing her seatbelt. Photo by Mike Thompson
Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 1999
Troy Police launch seat
belt awareness campaign
By MICHELLE J. WILSON
Published Aug. 15, 1999
Like most high-schoolers, Yi Lee’s first thought when it comes to driving is getting from point A to B. He does not often think about being involved in an auto accident.
But Lee told Troy Police officers he was thankful he had on his seat belt Thursday afternoon when he was involved in a wreck in front of Charles Henderson High School.
Seat belts save lives and prevent serious injuries, according to Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage. That is why officers with the Troy Police Department will be working in the next few months to educate drivers about the importance of using safety restraints.
They also want to increase awareness about the new mandatory seat belt law, which was passed by the Alabama Legislature and Gov. Don Siegelman earlier this summer. House Bill 7 allows state, county and local police officers to stop motorists for not wearing their seat belts. Under the previous law, officers can only cite motorists for not wearing their seat belts if they pull them over for another violation, such as speeding.
Enforcement of Alabama’s mandatory seat belt law begins Dec. 9.
"We want to let people know what the law is and what it says," Everage said. "This is a good law, and it is our job to enforce the laws.
"Our goal is not to ticket drivers. We want to encourage people to wear their seat belts, not just because it’s the law, but because it increases the risk of surviving a wreck."
Officers may check seat belts during drivers’ license and equipment checks, he said. They will give verbal warnings to people who are not wearing their seat belts.
Critics of the mandatory seat belt law are concerned it places a financial burden on poorer motorists who may not be able to afford putting seat belts in their older cars. Others say a mandatory seat belt law allows government to interfere in citizens’ daily lives and collect revenue from motorists.
Seat belt laws are meant to protect citizens and not to provide the government with revenue or greater control over people, said Sgt. Benny Scarbrough, public information officer with the Troy Police Department.
Seat belt use is a required policy for Troy Police Department officers.
"This is not for the police department to have something else to do, but if it will affect the safety of people in our community, it is a great idea," Scarbrough said.
The legislation amends the 1975 Alabama law.
Also, a person subject to a penalty for a violation of the seat belt law is assessed court costs in the court where convicted.
The 1999 law repeals this provision. From December 1999 through June 2000 only a warning ticket will be issued unless the person was stopped for a separate violation.
After the sixth month introductory period, 60 percent of the fines generated by violators of seat belt law will be allocated to the Department of Public Safety, Law Enforcement Division, the bill stated. The remaining 40 percent of the funds will be allocated to the state general fund.
The bill provides that a law enforcement officer may not search or inspect a vehicle, its contents, the driver or passenger solely because of a violation of the seat belt law.
Each state, county and municipal police department must maintain statistics on traffic stops for seat belt law violations of minorities and report that information monthly to the Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General, according to the legislation.
All 50 states have versions of seat belt laws.