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State to consider tougher seat belt laws
Mar 08, 2013 2:31 pm
If a state legislator has his way, not wearing a seat belt could become a lot more expensive in Tennessee.
Introduced by state Rep. Tony Shipley, of Kingsport, HB613 would increase the penalty for not wearing a safety belt and would allocate revenues from increased fines for prevention of child abuse and to the Tennessee Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children.
Presently it is a Class C misdemeanor for a person caught not wearing a seatbelt, and violators are fined $10 for the first violation and $20 for subsequent violations. The money collected from fines is deposited in the state general fund without being designated for any specific purpose.
The proposed bill would increase the fine for a first-time violation to $50, and the cost of subsequent violations to $75.
The bill would also change the distribution of money generated, with $20 of any fine generated designated to the Tennessee Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children; $10 going to the Exchange Club Family Centers for the prevention of child abuse; and all remaining funds from fines going to the division of vocational rehabilitation to assist people with disabilities who have been severely injured in motor vehicle accidents.
Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen said he is wholeheartedly in favor of upping the fines for people who don't use seat belts.
"I had a conference call with Rep. Mark Pody and the legislator who introduced this bill," Bowen said. "I requested that the bill be amended to include some of the money from fines going to Child Advocacy Centers as well."
He said the American Automobile Association is behind this proposed change.
"The AAA is pushing this law for seat belt use and for more points on driver's licenses," he said. "They think the current rules are not enough punishment."
Under the provisions of the bill, anyone who violates the new seat belt law would also be assigned two points on his or her driver's license that could contribute to a license being suspended or revoked if they receive 12 or more points within 12 months.
"The three things that lead to the most injuries and deaths among drivers and passengers are speeding, drinking and driving and not wearing seat belts," Bowen said. "In an accident, anyone not wearing a seat belt is more likely to be killed."