Urging city and county leaders to advocate passage of an amended bill that would allow law-enforcement officers to stop and cite motorists for failing to wear seat belts, MoDOT Director Pete Rahn made a scheduled appearance Tuesday morning at the Phelps County Courthouse in Rolla.




Missouri motorists are presently regulated by a “secondary seat-belt law,” by which drivers must violate another law first before they can be cited for a safety-belt violation.


Urging city and county leaders to advocate passage of an amended bill that would allow law-enforcement officers to stop and cite motorists for failing to wear seat belts, MoDOT Director Pete Rahn made a scheduled appearance Tuesday morning at the Phelps County Courthouse in Rolla.


Missouri motorists are presently regulated by a “secondary seat-belt law,” by which drivers must violate another law first before they can be cited for a safety-belt violation.


“You have to break one of 584 other traffic offenses in the state of Missouri first, before the law-enforcement community can talk to you about not wearing your belt,” Rahn said, explaining how officers can legally stop a car with a cracked light-lens but not a car with occupants who aren’t wearing seat-belts.


“This is a list of 2,183 people who have died on Missouri’s highways and roads, unbelted, in the last four years. Of those 2,183 people who have died, if we had had a primary belt-law in 2005, 360 of these people would not be on that list,” Rahn said.


Lagging behind 28 other states that already have passed primary belt-laws, the inability of the Missouri House to pass the amendment could end up costing millions in federal funds and medical expenses, Rahn argued.


Specifically, Missouri could receive an additional $16-to-$20 million in federal highway-safety funds if the legislation is passed, Rahn explained.


One provision of House Bill No. 665 specifies the fine for not wearing a seat belt would be $10, with no court costs to be imposed.


Additionally, a 2007 study completed by the Preusser Research Group, Inc., estimated Missouri could have saved $6 million of its annual budget for medical costs during the first year of the law, $43.8 million during the first five years and $121.9 million over a period of 10 years, had a primary safety-belt law been enacted in 2007.


Using 2005 Missouri Hospital Discharge data, the research group also examined minimum estimated savings on direct medical costs paid through Medicaid and other state sources if a primary seat-belt law was implemented.


The study said the total cost to the State of Missouri for treatment of crash-related injuries was $132.6 million for the first year and $30.7 million for each subsequent year.


A total of 517 Medicaid patients with a crash-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) were discharged from Missouri hospitals with charges totaling $34.2 million.


Moreover, 52 Medicaid patients with a crash-related spinal-cord injury (SCI) were discharged from Missouri hospitals with charges totaling $7.4 million.


Rahn told the 26 city and county officials attending the conference that recent MoDOT initiatives — rumble-strips, rumble-strip striping, median guard-cables and better signage — succeeded in reducing accident statistics, but that the reductions had reached a plateau.


“The next step has got to be the primary belt-law,” Rahn said.


In 2008, overall usage of seat belts accounted for 76 percent of the vehicles’ occupant population, compared with 83 percent nationally. Moreover, only 62 percent of Missouri teens used seat belts, Rahn said.


Rahn asked the officials to contact their state representative and voice their support for the bill, which is presently working its way through the Transportation Committee.


“We can do it this year,” Rahn said. “The House needs to hear you care about this. Please, make that call to your representative.”


Phelps County residents are represented by one of three state representatives:


Dr. Dan Brown (District 149): (573) 751-5713 or at Dan.Brown@house.mo.gov;


Jason Smith (District 150): (573) 526-1806 or at Jason.Smith@house.mo.gov;


Don Wells (District 147): (573) 751-1490 or at Don.Wells@house.mo.gov.


Additionally, letters supporting the passage of House Bill No. 665 may be directed to Primary Safety Belt Partners, 611 East Capitol Ave., Jefferson City, Mo., 65101.