Stricter Seat Belt Laws?

Before Thanksgiving, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony in support of a bill to tighten the state’s seat belt law. I’m considering supporting the change, based on the compelling evidence that it would save lives.

Currently, police can write a $25 ticket for failure to wear a seatbelt. The ticket is not considered a “moving violation” and has no impact on insurance rates. The law provides that the law shall be enforced “only when an operator of a motor vehicle has been stopped for a violation of the motor vehicle laws or some other offense.” In other words, the police cannot stop a motorist for failure to wear a seat belt. The police can only ticket for a seat belt violation if they’ve already stopped a motorist for some other lawful reason.

The bill under consideration, House 1187 would allow officers to stop vehicles for the sole reason that occupants aren’t wearing their seat belts. However it would not allow police to search vehicles on that basis, stating specifically that “a police officer may not search or inspect a motor vehicle, its contents, the driver, or a passenger solely because of a violation of this section”. The bill would raise the fine from $25 to $50, but would not make it a moving violation for insurance purposes.  The new fine level would would be roughly in the middle of the national range.

Driving has gotten considerably safer over the last 50 years with fatalities per 100 million miles traveled declining from 5.18 in 1963 to 1.14 in 2011.   Seat belt use is “unquestionably, the most important vehicle crash safety innovation” contributing to that long term decline.

While seat belt installation expanded in the 60s, the first mandatory seat belt law was passed in New York in 1984. Today, the observed seat belt use rate in the 33 states with a primary seat belt law averages 90%, while it averages 79% in other states (16 with secondary laws and 1 no with law covering adults).

Massachusetts, one of the 16 states with only a secondary seat belt law, does have relatively low seat belt use. According to the 2014 annual observational survey, 76.6% of drivers in Massachusetts use seat belts, but that is well below the national average of 87.0%. Only Montana, New Hampshire and Arkansas had lower seat belt use than Massachusetts — New Hampshire being the only state in the country without an adult seat belt law in 2014.

We heard strong testimony from a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, who took the time to travel to Massachusetts for the hearing. He testified calmly and factually, but with evident conviction, that moving from secondary to primary enforcement would save lives.

He reported that fatalities have fallen roughly 7 percent after the transition from secondary to primary enforcement of seat belt laws in other states. This would translate into roughly a dozen lives per year in Massachusetts, based on occupant fatalities of 200 per year. Of course it would also reduce injuries. He made the point that the costs of fatality and injury are born not only by the victims, but also by society as whole.

The main concerns about the bill are that it will significantly increase motor vehicle stops and could increase racially-motivated motor vehicle stops. These are both concerns that I share. Before and after studies show that seat belt citations do rise significantly after implementation of a primary seat belt law, although the share of seat-belt tickets issued to minorities does not change. Several national organizations representing a minority perspective have come out in support of primary enforcement.

As always, I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts.

You can still comment on the issue at this continuation thread — the discussion below is closed.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

162 replies on “Stricter Seat Belt Laws?”

  1. While I am in favor of safety and believe strongly in the use of seatbelts, I also believe that many stops are made in the interest of revenue generation and not safety. If police were truly concerned about safety, they would ticket tailgaters and drunk drivers much more than they do now. They would NOT use unmarked vehicles, as a visible police presence is shown to reduce unsafe driving. Ticketing as taxing is wrong.

  2. Although I agree with seat-belt use, and always wear my seat-belt, I disagree that further laws need to be created for something that doesn’t impact other drivers. Amending the law to require those under 18- or 21- to wear them seems feasible, but thereafter it should be up to the person that is directly affected by not wearing one. Enforcing the current laws where if someone is pulled over and is seen not wearing their seatbelt, I find reasonable, as well as punishing those drivers that have children unbuckled in a vehicle that are under the age of 18- or 21-.

  3. Thanks you for this information.
    I support your decision to vote in favor of the primary seat belt laws for the rationale you shared.
    Thank you,
    Caren Peters

  4. I don’t disagree with the higher penalty amount, but I do disagree that people can be pulled over solely for that as I believe that’s a bit over the top.

  5. I do not approve of this law. I feel that, as long as not wearing a seat belt poses a danger only to the individual in question and not to others, then that should be a personal decision and not subject to state regulation. As far as I understand it, our Constitution includes the right for an individual to make less-than-optimal decisions regarding their own personal safety.

    1. Steve,

      Not wearing a seat belt does pose a danger to more than just the individual. Any other passengers in the car are also put at risk, as someone who is not wearing a seat belt can become a projectile in the event of a crash.

  6. I support the proposed legislation. It will prevent injury and help young people to learn to keep themselves and their friends safer.

  7. I would be against supporting this bill. I believe the existing law already addresses safety issues. Looks like more $$$$ fees and not increase safety. Spend more time eliminating graft, corruption and waste in our government to make our future safe!

  8. Altho I appreciate any effort to increase the use of seat belts, the police tell us – on a regular basis – that they don’t have time to ticket cyclists, moving vehicles for laws already on the books. I would prefer that the time be spent ticketing cars making left turns when not allowed, cars speeding, cars blocking intersections and the most egregious cyclists. There are not many of them but they are noticed by pedestrians and give cyclists a bad name.

  9. I would support the bill- all people should be wearing seatbelts -black or otherwise. When there is increased injury or death because a seat belt wasn’t used the increased cost trickles down and effects everybody.

    1. Interesting you bring up race in your response, as if you already know this law will be used to target already vulnerable communities of minorities. I cannot support this measure in good conscience knowing the dangers minorities already face at the hands of law enforcement. And it appears you know this danger exists as well, but you’re choosing to add to the misery.

  10. Hi Will,

    I would vote no. The police should be spending their time stopping more drivers for speeding, texting as well as enforcing existing laws.

    It would also be helpful if the Police when on details would get of their vehicles and off of their cell phones and supervise the traffic and road work being performed.

    We don’t need more government regulations!

  11. I do not think police should stop people when the driver or an adult passenger not wearing a seat belt. I am concerned about profiling. I also do not think it is the job of government to protect me from myself, even when there is a monetary cost to society. I think currently drivers can be stopped for a child passenger not wearing a seat belt, but if not I would consider that.

  12. I support this legislation. I agree that a higher ticket amount is appropriate as well as stopping a driver for not wearing his/her seatbelt.

    If more than a dozen lives can be saved by greater enforcement of seatbelt use, I think there’s value.

  13. Sen. Brownsberger,

    The legislation seems pretty straightforward. It does not require police to stop drivers who aren’t wearing a seat belt, but rather allows them to do so if they notice it. That is appropriate.

    The increase in the fine is also appropriate.

  14. Dear Senator Brownsberger,

    Thank you for your work in the Senate, and for keeping us constituents updated on what’s going on in the Legislature. It can be daunting (for you & your staff as well, I’m sure!) to try to keep track of everything, so your thoughtful summaries & solicitations of input are very much appreciated.

    I am very much in favor of the proposed legislation. I’d like to add in greater enforcement of existing Boston traffic laws, but obviously that’s an issue for local government. 🙂 But the proposed changes to existing seatbelt are simple for vehicle drivers and passengers to implement, and very good for their health, and by extension, the wellbeing of the Commonwealth.

    I hope you and your staff enjoyed the Thanskgiving holiday, and do enjoy the coming holidays as well.


    Jamie Simpson
    Boston, MA

  15. I have no issues with the proposed change as written. I would support making it a moving violation if only the driver is unbelted (after all you can’t totally control your passengers).

  16. I completely oppose this law. Stopping someone for not wearing a seatbelt (while not committing any other infractions) is akin to a nanny state. If we are so concerned about decreasing fatalities on the roads, maybe we should ban motorcycles because by design they are far more dangerous. Yet, we allow them freely, without reservations.

  17. I had no idea that Massachusetts wasn’t more strict, and in view of your figures about minorities NOT seeming to be targeted, I’m in favor . . .
    Thanks for asking.

  18. Shocked to learn that our state has such a low rate of seatbelt use.

    I definitely approve tighter laws to enforce seat-belt use, not only to save lives, but also to reduce auto insurance rates.


  19. Let’s ban use of all hand held devices while driving a moving vehicle. NY has done so, and we need to too.

    We need to rethink laws regarding bicycles so that they are enforceable. Many cyclists ride at night with no lights.

    Let’s make life safer for everyone: pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

  20. I do not support this legislation. Seat belt laws protect those who wear the seatbelts and often have little effect on the safety of others (unless the individual flies out of the car). While I support all to wear a safety belt, I do not believe it should warrant someone to be pulled over. Let’s talk about that: how often have I been driving down the street or highway and the road is backed up because an officer pulled someone over in the middle of a lane, blocking traffic? Until police are smarter about where they pull people over and are conscious of the traffic these pull-overs create, we should NOT increase the pull-over rate.

  21. I am strongly opposed to primary enforcement of seatbelt laws.

    I think seatbelts are great inventions, and insist on all my family using them; but I believe that allowing primary enforcement will significantly increase unconstitutional “pretextual stops”.

    Law enforcement officers cannot, in reality, determine before they start to try to pull someone over, whether they’re wearing a seatbelt or not, any more than you or I can safely or practically see whether another driver we pass on the road is wearing a seatbelt.

    This means that logically, most drivers pulled over for the stated reason of primary seatbelt enforcement, will in fact be being pulled over for other things that the officer cannot so easily class as an offense; it is a retrospective justification for a stop based on a hunch. Before a stop, the Constitution requires reasonable suspicion of engagement in an actual crime, even if people are claiming that ignoring Constitutional requirements will be good for the safety of the public.

    I should also note the policy context of this request in the Legislature. Law enforcement has been pressing for this power for years. In fact, over a decade of effort by Sen. Chang-Diaz and Rep. Rushing to get the police to collect and report consistent data on traffic stops, has run into the roadblock of police insistence that they must be allowed to do primary seatbelt enforcement in exchange for reporting data on traffic stops. Here, from your description, they’re asking for this power, but offering nothing in return, in terms accepting data collection or reporting as proposed in their bills or in ours (H. 2170).

    If primary seatbelt enforcment were implemented as it stands, we simply wouldn’t know whether in MA it “increased the share of seatbelt tickets” – or other violations – issued to minorities, because that data is not being collected or reported right now.

    Here’s a good discussion from when we last rejected this in Massachusetts:

    The language restricting searches “solely” on the basis of a seatbelt violation means very little. Once the car is pulled over, law enforcement often shows little restraint in coming up with other reasons to search a car that have nothing to do with crime. Perhaps the back window is tinted to a shade too dark. Perhaps there is an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror, or too much litter in the back seats. All of these have been used and continue to be used as pretexts for searches.

    Last, if it happened to be true that it wouldn’t result in an increase in vehicular searches, then that would mean of necessity that scarce police resources would be being diverted towards the issuing of $50 tickets and away from the investigation of more serious crimes. The analysis that it would save a dozen lives in Massachusetts per year if it passed, ignores this diversion of resources; we have no way to measure how many incremental lives will be lost as a result of more police time being spent on this kind of pretextual “seatbelt” enforcement. Last, it also ignores the reality that drivers, especially minority drivers, are not at a zero risk of losing their lives when they have been pulled over by the police.

  22. It seems like a no brainier. If a primary seat belt law saves lives and reduces injuries, then I’m in favor of the law. I do like the provisions of it not leading to a vehicle search and it not being a moving violation. As long as those provisions remain this change in seat belt law has my support.

  23. Hi Will:

    I would recommend that you support a compromise. I have no problem with the $50 fine nor the moving violation assessment for insurance purposes. I do have a problem with mission creep if officers pull people over for not wearing their seat belts and doing a visual search of the car and passengers for no compelling reason. I think this could lead to abuse by some police officers, and that would be an invasion of privacy.

    I would support stricter laws on cell phone use while driving. That is far more dangerous than anything else. Distracted driving is a huge problem. While everyone wants to use their phones, a hands-free requirement should be enacted and absolutely no texting or even having the phone in your hands while driving (looking at maps or texts) should be a moving violation and a $200 ticket. This has worked in many other states. How many times have you seen cars swerving outside of their lanes or stuck behind a person at a red light reading their emails? This has got to stop. Good luck with all this – Massachusetts may not be Live Free or Die, but we’re pretty close to our neighbors to the north.

  24. I don’t disagree with the higher penalty amount, but like other commenters, I don’t think I would support people getting pulled over solely for non-use (in adults). I remain concerned about racial profiling, not only for pull-overs but for what might happen after being pulled over. I am concerned that some of the studies may not have addressed this question properly, or at all. For instance, the 2011 NHTSA study did not examine what proportion of people, by race, were subject to searches or other measures after having been stopped for a seatbelt violation.

  25. While at a “gut level” I share some of the concerns expressed here by others, the extensive data available on this issue ranges from not supporting those concerns to directly contradicting them.

    Racial profiling is undeniably a problem, but lack of seatbelt use — with a corresponding increase in deaths and injuries from accidents — is a problem with a much bigger impact on minority communities.

    Efforts to end racial profiling — which should continue and be a high priority — should not stand in the way of making driving safer for everyone. The data are clear: primary enforcement of seatbelt laws make driving safer.

    I support this legislation.

  26. Would be a good idea to have both private and public buses have seat belts. Amazes me to know School Buses do not require them!
    Took a Colonial Bus to Swansea with the Arlington Retired Men’s Club and it had seat belts.

  27. There should not be a law forcing you to wear a seat belt. Similarly, bicycle helmets should not be a law. An adult individual should be able to take as many or as few safety precautions they want to. There is no victim if a crash occurs and injures those not wearing a seat belt as it was their choice.

    I also agree with the concern of increased motor vehicle stops. Officers should only be required to stop vehicles for infractions that would be a safety threat to other vehicles.

  28. I strongly agree with beefing up the seatbelt law.
    Let’s get MA into the 21st century as soon as possible.
    I am even more concerned with the use of cellphones while driving. I’ve had some close calls lately. The person wasn’t even aware I was there.
    Wish there was an interest here in MA in traffic enforcement. I can go months without seeing anyone pulled over. Where are the cops?

  29. I am vehement opposed to this new tool for law enforcement to target civilians for searches with the pretense that it would save lives. If the death penalty doesn’t deter murderers, a new law allowing police to stop people solely for seatbelt violation won’t make people use their seat belts. Current seat belt laws already disproportionately affect low income mindorites, this new law will only add to that problem. Now simply forgetting to put on a seatbelt could get a young black man killed. We currently have an assault on civil liberties in this country, and tightening arbitrary laws with more dubious claims about public safety will only add to the problem.

  30. “The police can only ticket for a seat belt violation if they’ve already stopped a motorist for some other lawful reason”

    Unfortunately, in practice this will become a tax on driving while black, poor, etc.. I see selective enforcement as a huge problem with this proposal, with very little evidence it would increase compliance. There should be increased pressure on auto manufacturers to devise safer vehicles with restraints that are harder to bypass.

  31. Hi Will! Yes, I am in favor of the tougher seat belt law. I’ve always thought the secondary enforcement was so weak as to be practically useless. Thanks for asking!


    1. So you would rather have police pulling over drivers for forgetting to click their seatbelt than investigating rape, murder and robbery. Because it IS an either/or scenario. And officer pulling someone over for a seatbelt violation is one (or in this case thousands) of officers unavailable to respond to crimes that affect the public, as opposed to a crime that only affects the “suspect.”

  32. Will,

    I would instead support significant increases in fines for cell phone use, texting, and other driving infractions. Then the officer could reasonably issue a fine for not using a seat belt.

    I think the risk of racial profiling is too great, since we live in a society that can’t seem to shed its racism, despite clear complicity in having created and perpetuated it.

    I would also support very significant increases in fines for the increasingly dangerous, badly or entirely unlit, un-helmeted, un-vested, and traffic rule ignoring bicyclists that are everywhere, and often in the dark.

    Thanks so much for all you do, and hope you are well.


  33. Dear Senator,
    I support the expanded seat belt law and hope it passes. Thanks for sending out this update.
    Leah Ricci

  34. While on its face the law seems reasonable, I too worry about mission creep. I think that police power is very often being abused and misdirected. I hate to add another pretext to pull someone over. In the current climate, I would up the fine, but keep enforcement secondary. We need to clarify what we expect from policing in our communities. That is a very important conversation that we must have.

    If someone does not wear a seatbelt, they are the person likely to be hurt or killed. Far more important to legislate against is handheld cell phone use while driving. Distracted drivers are more likely to hurt or kill others. As a pedestrian and cyclist, I often feel endangered by drivers who are on their phones and not paying sufficient attention to their driving.

  35. I believe the law should stay the way it is currently enforced.
    Wearing a seatbelt is the smart thing to do, and everyone in my car wears one. However, I am not in favor of moving the violation from a secondary to a primary enforcement.
    I am also not in favor of increasing the fine from $25 to $50.
    Thank you.

  36. Perhaps you could explain to us how the police can tell if a seatbelt is being used.

    Thanks for alerting us to this issue!

  37. While, perhaps,laudable, I do not support changing the current law regarding seat belts as it further restricts personal choices and increases the possibility of police over-aggressiveness in the prosecution of the proposed changes.

  38. Sounds like a VERY good move. Now that Jerry Williams isn’t around to mount another anti-seatbelt movement….

  39. I thank you for your thoughtful summary of the proposed bill. I support it because seat belt use indeed saves lives.

  40. The biggest problem here is that an officer can now pull over drivers for no reason at all, seatbelt or not, and write a ticket for the violation if they turn up nothing else. This expanded power for police to target drivers is a very dangerous step, especially since THEY’RE the ones asking for the increase in authority. I wonder if the people supporting this rule would feel so strongly should they be saddled with a ticket they don’t deserve, and hit with a rise in insurance rate. The last thing this state needs is another avenue for police to stop and search otherwise law abiding citizens.

  41. Frankly, I am more concerned about the lack of enforcement of moving violations. I would prefer to see the police concentrate on these, which endanger others as well as the perpetrator, rather than pursuing a new agenda. Perhaps simply increasing the fine would be a more logical approach.

  42. Totally against it. I am a strong police supporter but in view of what is going on in the US today ,with racial issues ,I do not believe that this would be a color neutral issue. It is the government intruding more and more into our lives and deciding what is best for us.

  43. I do think that we should encourage everyone to wear their seat belts, but this is not the way to do it and do not support this law change as written.

    I would support the increased fines; the funds collected from the increase in fines could be spent on safety education in public schools. However, I am against the new vehicle stopping portion; I worry about racially motivated stops and even age motivated stops. I would stick to fining only when laws are being broken.

  44. While it makes sense to discuss the implications, fairness and resources needed for tightening up this change, I am very concerned about it, especially regarding the timing and the perception of heightened police involvement. The discussion and resolution should not occur while the political divisiveness, policing practices, racial tensions issues are as raw and crucial as they are right now. Let’s not add to any fears etc about the possibility of govt or police over- reach. I would fully support a very well done public service ad campaign at this time. I would wait for a better atmosphere to advocate/implement such changes in the law. Thanks.

  45. I strongly support this bill.
    Seat belts not only save lives,but minimizes injuries. Each of these would contribute to lowering car insurance rates and medical care costs that affect us all.
    I was disappointed that only 76.6% wear seat belts in MA. Irresponsible to themselves and society not to wear seat belts.

  46. I believe that the safety factor outweighs other concerns and recommend passage of this law under the terms stated. Hopefully, it will be an incentive for people to change their behavior and buckle up, saving lives and health care costs.
    Thank you, Will.

  47. I am opposed to the bill for the reasons you share – we don’t need to give the police another reason to stop vehicles and certainly not an excuse for racially motivated ones.
    Anne Leslie

  48. I think the seat belt law should be stronger. We all pay for injuries. Let’s deal with potential racial issues with better training for police and social attitude change. I am happy that the national orgs representing a minority perspective support this approach.

  49. It’s always a new law. Something like a knee-jerk reaction. Why can’t they just enforce the one already on the books? If you want a new law, make it illegal to be talking on a cell phone while driving….and enforce it with a stiff fine. BTW, cops are not enforcing laws that they don’t want to enforce. The speed limit on route 128 is 55. Does anyone drive 55? You can’t even drive 55 in the right hand lane. Why aren’t
    laws enforced? Obvious, selective enforcement breeds a general disrespect for laws of all kinds. There is simply too much hypocrisy with most things government, in my view.

    1. I support raising the State Speed limit on all highways to 65 or 70. No one goes 55 and it is crazy that we have a speed limit that makes no sense. Change the state to at least 65.

      1. It makes perfect sense really. The lions tail the herd of wildebeest looking for the weak and young. They are hungry. The lion attacks a carefully selected herd member and begins devouring the animal. All of the other wildebeests can now resume their chewing….until next time.

  50. I support the law, in both increased fine and primary enforcement. Wear your seatbelt, and you won’t have to worry about the fine. Wear your seatbelt, and you won’t be pulled over for race, age or any other characteristic. Wear your seat belt, and the cost of insurance is kept in check. Wear you seat belt, and save your life.

    Steve in Belmont

  51. I do support primary seat belt laws. To insure that it is not used to just Stop when Black, maybe the bill should have a database feature on prevalence of stops as to where and when. Thus you can monitor if it is being used proportionally more in one neighborhood over the other. Just a suggestion and not sure that it makes sense to collect such data and if too much of a burden to do so.

  52. Since I always wear my belt and insist that riders do too, this wouldn’t impact me.

    The increase in the fee is OK I guess. I like the provision that this can’t be used as a way to search a car, and that it’s not a moving violation.

    I’d also like to see it restricted to public roads. I don’t want a ticket for being in my driveway listening to the radio, searching in my purse, re positioning my car in my driveway, etc.

  53. In 2001, after news reports of school-bus fatalities, I wrote to the Boston Globe with a request that school buses be equipped with seat belts.

    My letter was published, and met with a surprising (to me) response: administrators and bus drivers also wrote in, with a mind-your-own-business/we’ve-got-it-covered attitude.

    The NHTSA finally (14 years later) came out with a public policy statement on this. They agree with my position.

    Please consider adding seat-belt requirements, and funding for it (I think it’s about $7-10K to upgrade existing vehicles), on school buses in Massachusetts. At the very least, all new buses should have them.

    1. I think you are correct. School buses should be required to have seat belts , start here first Will

  54. Hi Will

    I think we should have a stricter law. Twelve lives are worth saving.

    I share you concern about racially motivated stops. What can be done then? If after a specified period of time, say four years, the record shows that minorities are stopped more often than whites, then the law could be dropped or modified to prevent discrimination. The law might require police to send in a year end summary of the ethnicity of the population stopped to see if discrimination is happening triggering next steps toward revisions or repeal. Just off the top of my head. Thanks for all you do, Will.

  55. I have mixed feelings about this. I observe so many moving violations – people going through red lights, for example, or turning against an arrow or after the arrow has changed, or riding someone’s bumper, or honking at a driver waiting for a pedestrian to finish crossing the street, or at someone who doesn’t bound out into the intersection the minute the light changes. These habits are on the increase, and are very dangerous. I think they deserve at least as much attention as enforcing seat belt use, if the interest is in preventing accidents.

  56. There’s no logic for it not going on the record for insurance purposes. A failure to use seat belts raises insurance costs for everyone.

  57. I support making seat belt laws stricter and increasing fines on violators, though I honestly wonder if a $25 increase is really going to make more people wear seatbelts. I’d also like to see some education on the fact that failing to wear a seatbelt is not only a danger to the non-wearer. Many vehicle accidents result in collisions against multiple objects, sometimes a second or two apart, before the vehicle comes to a stop. Belted drivers and drivers with belted passengers are much more likely to recover control of the steering wheel and brakes, thus potentially allowing them to prevent the subsequent collisions.

    1. Do you have evidence to support your assertion? Or are you just making it up as you go along?

  58. Safety first. It may be wise to instruct parents who unload their children on the traffic side, it would be safer to disembark on the passenger side, especially in school zones.

  59. I’m definitely in favor of stricter seat belt laws and find it troubling that Massachusetts has relatively low usage.

    Another thing I I totally support, but which is way beyond your (and the police’s) control everywhere is common courtesy and knowledge of basic driving laws. But that’s a mini-series in itself!

  60. No need to allow a police stop strictly for seat belt unless it’s a minor. Thus is government over reaching. I worked in law enforcement and this is rediculous. Also seat belt is not a guarantee for safety and does cause harm at times. Adults do not need to be policed over this.

  61. Current laws are mot being enforced adequately. I have an exemption from wearing my seat belt for medical purposes. This law change will cause ticket happy cops to pull me over continually wasting my time while I prove my innocence. They will keep me there while running my license and plates. This is a no win – all lose proposition for me. Additionally, I have seen officers TALKING ON CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING! Let’s try weeding out the scofflaw Hippocrates before we make or change laws that aren’t being enforced let alone followed by law enforcement.

  62. I would be in favor of the stricter seatbelt law ONLY IF FIRST…
    1. Moving violations were enforced on a regular basis.
    2. People on cell phones were routinely pulled over and fined.

    Driving license “points” and financial penalties for not wearing seat belts are up to insurance companies when processing accident reports.

  63. Hi, Will,
    I think that primary enforcement will bring Mass. in alignment with the majority of states without risking an increase in racial incidents. I think the no-search stipulation is appropriate, but I would like to see non-use violations also be moving violations.
    David High

  64. I feel like there are larger problems that our police force could be working on. While I think everyone can agree that we want to save more lives, I see so much reckless driving on the road now and most of the time when I see a police officer, they are already busy with somebody pulled over or helping somebody.

    Our police force is stretched so thin already, this seems like more of a burden than a help to me.

  65. Dear Will
    I am totally against the new proposed seat belt law , Currently The police need a reason to pull you over example speeding a light out ect . I ask you sit in your car will and see if you can see a person is wearing there seat belt . With tinted glass forget about it ! This is all about revenue , nothing else 50% of every fined dollar goes back to the city and towns .

  66. I do not support the idea of the sit belts, the unnecessary stops will increase dramatically as it was posted and abuse without any doubt.

    1. I think it also increase the danger to police from being hit by passing motorist cause more traffic slowdowns – some things are important – this law is not

  67. I agree that there should be tougher seat belt laws, but I also worry about racially motivated stops.

    But in general, I support this new legislation.

  68. I think the police have a lot more serious matters to contend with than to spend their time stopping drivers for not wearing their seatbelts. Better they pull people over who are distracted on their cellphones.

  69. Sounds like great idea, if this is the LAST violation people does in the US, if no more speeding, reckless driving or DUI going on.
    Lets not try to regulate everything! Year by year we getting more and more regulations, which may be good, but actually regulates our freedoms. This seatbelt is for own safety, doesn’t affect any others, in fact businesses are still responsible if their drivers get severe injures while at work, but neglect safety by not wearing the seatbelt. So what’s a point of enforcing more if there always a way to find a backdoor.
    Also who’s going to watch after cops? No one above the law, but it seems that police officer are, many times see how they violate laws, but pull people over for the same violations.
    Clearly brilliant idea to get more money to the state by allowing to pull people over for that, while there is some drunk person driving around the corner. Next step? Insurance companies will react by rising premium cost for such violation.

  70. Stop giving the police reason to stop people. Enough of the BS laws this type of thing only encourages more and more invation – the police have more important things to do these days – I would rather give more money and attention to Department of child wealfare – you know the poeple who are in charge of foster care – They need more money and efforts.

  71. I strongly support making seat belt non-use a primary, rather than secondary, enforcement issue. As a public health professional, prevention of injury and death is an important goal. However, I share the concerns about the potential for racially-motivated enforcement, so would like to see a monitoring and reporting requirement to accompany this legislation.

    1. So, I suppose you’d like to seat-belt motorcyclists then …or better yet, ban them entirely…”as a public health professional”…? Hmmmmm.
      Are more and more laws, laws on top of laws, the answer? And would you ban the use of cell phones while walking? Yes, there are those who step out in front of traffic while staring at their phones…how do we as a society protect them from themselves? Where does personal responsibility play? Let us have a law for or against everything that has the potential to be dangerous to us. Is this the kind of society worth living in? Do we the people need to be protected from ourselves? Yes? Something to think about.
      I enthusiastically favor a ban on cell phone use while driving because this practice can and does do harm and kills OTHERS but not wearing a seat belt will not in any way directly harm others, only the person not wearing. So, is not wearing your seat belt stupid? Perhaps. Will we as a society have to spend money on traumatic brain injuries? Yes, likely. Would most accident “victims” have been better off if they had been wearing their seat belts? Probably. Do I favor a law requiring seat belt usage? No.
      I favor a seat belt law for minors but adults should retake the right to decide if and/or when to buckle up.
      Yes, all choices have consequences for good or ill but let us protect our right to make those choices, as stupid as they sometimes may be. Let us not continually give our rights away to the government, however convenient. Many have died to protect what freedoms we have, so let’s not give them away piecemeal until we eventually become a police state. Yes, it could happen…some say it already has.

      Thank you Senator Brownsberger for the heads up.

      Please vote against this new intrusion. Also, please place a bill to repeal the present law.

  72. Yes I am in favor of increasing the penalty for not wearing seat belts. Accidents cost money from my taxes for paying police investigation, first responders, fire engines that go to an accident, EMTs, etc. Medical insurance also pays doctors and hospitals which affect my insurance payments. Lessening serious accidents by wearing seatbelts also reduce the time spent by the State (police, EMTs, etc) so they can take care of more serious things.
    Yes I am concerned that minorities may be stopped unfairly, but with the current concern by policemen and their bosses as to this effect, hopefully this would not happen since policemen are being prosecuted and state agencies are paying for civil suits.

  73. I am all in favor – without a seatbelt it is easy to lose control in a crash – one of many reasons. An important regulation to improve I think.

  74. Hi Will – More laws does not automatically equal better government. Here’s why I’m against Primary Seatbelt Enforcement (House Bill 99-1212):
    This law will endanger people
    This is an attempt to control peoples own decisions about risk taking. Research shows that when reckless drivers are forced to buckle up, they drive even more recklessly. Thus, careful drivers (who wear seat belts by choice) are endangered.

    This law further disadvantages minorities
    Mandatory seat belt laws also increase the risk that minorities or other groups will be victimized by pretextual traffic stops.

    This law does not Promote a Safer Driving Environment
    Studies show that primary enforcement have no effect on overall highway safety.
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that wearing a seat belt in an automobile accident reduces the risk of serious injury or death by roughly 50 percent. NHSTA argues that if the U.S. could achieve the 85% seat belt use rates enjoyed in “other countries,” 5,421 fewer people would have died in motor vehicle accidents in 1996. These estimates are based on police-reported restraint use information for each individual occupant fatality, and include potential lives saved in all seating positions. Proponents of increasing the penalty for not using seat belts claim that increasing penalties increases usage, and that increased usage lowers traffic injuries and deaths.
    Some states already have primary offense laws. A survey of seat belt use among the fatally injured suggests that seat belt use in that group was 15 percent higher in states with primary offense enforcement laws. In 1996, states that treated seat belt use as a primary offense reported that seat belts were used 74 percent of the time. States that treated seat belt use as a secondary offense reported usage rates of 61 percent.
    Unfortunately, data like these fail to show that making seat belt usage a primary offense decreases traffic injuries and fatalities.
    In fact, no jurisdiction that has passed a seat belt law has shown evidence of a reduction in road accident deaths.
    To explore this odd but highly robust finding, experimenters asked volunteers to drive five horsepower go-karts with and without seat belts. They found that those wearing seat belts drove their karts faster. While this does not prove that car drivers do the same, it points in that direction.

    A similar study was done with real drivers on public roads. When subjects who normally did not wear seat belts were asked to do so, they were observed to drive faster, followed more closely, and braked later. In other words, people who are naturally cautious voluntarily choose to wear seat belts, and voluntarily drive safely. When reckless people are forced to wear seat belts, they “compensate” for the increased safety by driving more recklessly.
    Nor is it clear that making seat belt use a primary offense will significantly change either usage or motor vehicle injury and death rates. It is important to keep in mind that some people wear seat belts whether there are laws requiring it or not. States with more risk averse populations may also have populations that are more likely to both drive carefully and buckle up. They may also be more likely to pass primary seat belt laws. New York passed a primary seat belt law in 1984. In 1996, its observed seat belt usage rate was 74%, and a large fraction, 46%, of its fatally injured car occupants were wearing seat belts. Its fatality rate per 100,000,000 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) was 1.3. But Iowa, which has had a primary law since 1986, had a fatality rate per VMT of 1.7 in 1996 despite the fact that its observed seat belt use rate was 75% and fully 50% of its fatally injured car occupants were wearing seat belts.
    For example, Colorado’s 1999 fatality rate per VMT, 1.7, is the same as Iowa’s. This is in spite of the fact that Colorado’s observed rate of seat belt use was just 59%. Furthermore, high observed usage does not guarantee a lower death rate. Wyoming had no primary law and an observed usage rate of 72%. However, its fatality rate was higher, at 1.9 per VMT, and only 28.8% of its fatally injured car occupants were wearing seat belts.
    The point is that there is more to traffic safety than seat belt use. The age of the population, the condition of the roads, the speed at which people habitually travel, their affinity for drink, and a great many other factors all make a difference. Making failure to wear a seat belt a primary infraction will probably not do much to changes behavior, let alone accident results, if only because relatively few motorists will even know that the change has occurred, let alone what it means.
    Seat belt laws differ from traffic laws in that they attempt to regulate behavior that poses no danger to others. A person who refuses to wear a seat belt increases his own risk of injury or death, but not necessarily anyone else’s. Traffic laws have historically sought to regulate driver behavior that poses an obvious risk to others. Everyone can see that running a stop sign endangers others. Since the law makes obvious sense, most people obey it. A person who refuses to wear a seat belt increases his own risk of injury or death, but not necessarily anyone else’s.
    As the 20-year experiment with artificially low speed limits demonstrated, laws designed to regulate individual risk do not necessarily enjoy high rates of compliance, and low compliance with one law may erode general respect for all laws. This seems to be a particular problem when government tries to regulate the risk involved in routine activities that generally end without incident.

    When people see no reason to change the risk they are exposed to, they do not change their behavior. Frustrated government officials then proceed to ratchet penalties higher and higher in an effort to save face and force compliance. Since not enough people were thought to use seat belts Massachusetts passed a law requiring front seat passengers to buckle up. Now “enough” people still are not using seat belts and the legislature’s response is to increase police powers and to make the legal penalty harsher.
    Will, what if that doesn’t work, either? Just how much should otherwise law-abiding citizens have to pay for failing to wear a seat belt when that activity poses no danger to others? Should it cost them their license?
    Moreover, granting police increased ability to stop people for something which does not endanger other people is an invitation to selective enforcement and abuse. Making seat belt laws a primary offense gives unscrupulous police officers a pretext to pull over minorities, young people, people with pro-gun bumper stickers, or any other type of person the police officer may not like. In the context of enforcement of laws against speeding or running a red light, the danger of abusive enforcement is much less; the drivers conduct has provided objective evidence that he is a danger.
    Laws against dangerous driving can be easily enforced just by observing how the car moves. In contrast, seat belt laws can only be enforced by looking into the interior of the car. Will photo radar stations eventually be photographing the occupants of a car, to see who is wearing seat belts?
    The real question is not about seat belts. The real question is whether, and how much, government can and should regulate the risk that a free adult chooses to incur. Trying to convince people to wear their seat belts is one thing. Requiring them to do so when educational efforts fail is another.
    The problem with allowing seat belt stops was never that the seat belt violation itself allowed an arrest or a search. Rather, once the police officer has initiated an encounter based on the seat belt violation, he can simply ask for consent to search the car. Such “consent searches” do not require probable cause, since they are based on the “consent” of the driver. But, unless the driver is a lawyer, it is unlikely that the driver will understand that he has a real right to refuse consent. The inherently coercive atmosphere of a traffic stop, along with the presumed authority of the policeman, means that almost all drivers who are asked for “consent” will allow a search.
    In the rare case where the driver does not consent to a search, the police officer can use the seat belt stop to develop probable cause. For example, “When I asked for consent to search the car, the driver seemed nervous. I thought his explanation of where he was going was suspicious. I saw him make a furtive movement as I approached the car. Based on my training as a police officer, I knew that the driver was traveling along a road commonly used for drug deliveries”
    The Police clearly have enough to do as it is. Adding an additional burden to their tasks while at the same time failing to make the roads safer, in fact, potentially making the roads more unsafe just seems like a bad idea.

    As my representative, I would urge you to vote no on the frivolous and dangerous legislation.

  75. Hi Will,
    Thank you for your email on this topic.
    I am not in favor of police having any more reasons to stop a vehicle than they already have.
    Steve Gramolini

  76. I am absolutely opposed to any further police power, particularly re seat belts!! Just how “Motherly” do we want to write laws. This is nuts. What are police supposed to do to enforce any of this, wear binoculars that can see cars going 50-60 miles an hour on a typical highway. As for City driving, no, we do not need police stopping vehicles absent an actual legal violation. I thought this idea went kaput YEARS ago!!

  77. I think the police have more important things to do than pull over people who aren’t wearing seatbelts. If someone doesn’t want to wear a seatbelt but drives safely otherwise, that should be his choice.

    You can’t legislate common sense.

  78. Dear Senator. I read the bill and I am in favor of the law. I am and have always been a seatbelt user as all of my family are also users. They do save lives and prevent serious injuries.

    1. I too am a seat belt wearer, and I require any passengers in my car buckle up. However, I think this new provision would give police latitude to pull over minorities.

  79. No No No Will, for all the reasons articulated by those opposed below and because of the unintended consequences, we know will accompany additional police stops.
    If you want to have an immediate yet harsh impact, invalidate the auto insurance a motorist has in an accident while not wearing a seat belt.

  80. I am concerned that minorities will be stopped by the police. also, concerned about the increase in the fine.

  81. Dear Will, I don’t believe we need any additional seat belt legislation. This new legislation can result in abuse of police power and lot’s of unnecessary police stops. Enough government control of our lives. I am cynical enough to believe that this is just a ploy to increasing the fee to $50 and all the rest of the societal benefits are just a smokescreen.

  82. Hi Will-

    I strongly support this bill and hope you do too. It will save lives and from what you say, minorities would not be impacted.

    Lee Humphrey

  83. I strongly support this bill. Anything that can be done to save driver’s lives is vital


  84. Having had first-hand knowledge of what happened in an accident when seat belts were not worn, I urge you to support the stronger seat belt bill

  85. I’m reluctant to support this increase in seat belt laws. Moving violations should be related to the ability of the car to be operated safely, a seat belt does not affect that. Anything that hurts someone’s insurance rates in Massachusetts is also notoriously very expensive and amounts to a punishment that lasts for years far beyond the ticket.

    Now one could point to motorcycle helmet laws and claim the same case however at an estimated 12 lives per year for seatbelts vs the much greater risk posed by helmetless riding I feel this is a case where the end doesn’t justify the “nanny state” approach.

    There is also the issue of this law being used to pull over drivers at will and for racial profiling, as Mr Brownsberger mentioned. I feel this is a real risk and one that would be impossible for a driver to defend against. It would be far too easy to abuse this law.

    Anyone who is safety conscious wears a belt already. I cannot support this proposed change to the law.

  86. I’m in favor of primary enforcement of the seat belt law and I also think violations should result in an insurance surcharge. The increased personal injury costs due to not wearing seat belts raises insurance rates for everyone.


    Dave Teller

    1. Actually, this is probably what this is all about, making money for the insurance companies.

  87. I think it’s a good idea to have a primary seat belt law, and this one has some safeguards built in to reduce the chance of inappropriate searches, etc. Maybe being cited for failure to wear a seat belt should trigger a modest, one-year increase in the personal injury section of auto insurance as well.

  88. Dear Will,

    I am not in favor of this new legislation. I’m of the opinion that adults should be able to make their own decisions. There is much information available about the benefits of seat belts, and if someone wants to ignore that and go without, that should be their choice. I don’t believe it’s right to take that choice, regardless of how the rest of us feel about it, away from anyone.

  89. Question: Can an adult passenger be cited for not wearing a seat belt under this proposed legislation? (I assume that all children must be belted under current law.)

    My gut reaction: this category of law bothers me as I see potential for law enforcement abuse. Despite good intentions, it can be a form of harassment. We should promote personal responsibility without having to resort to “the law” as a justification for safe behavior.

  90. Drove into Boston on MaPike at 55 miles per hour in an SUV. Tried checking for seat belt usage in other cars( I was the passenger). It is almost impossible to see whether someone is wearing a seat belt or not. Now driving home in the dark….can see nothing in the cars. I think it is impossible to enforce and will become a revenue source.

  91. Too many civil rights and police power issues here for my support. Not wearing a seatbelt does not cause accidents. I also believe the compliance rate is very high based on my anecdotal evidence. If you really want to get serious about safety go after the biggest threat out there today that does cause accidents; texting while driving! If I stand on a corner in Boston and observe cars going by, almost everyone is wearing a seatbelt, but at least a third of them also have a cell phone in their hand and their eyes not on the road.

  92. I support this legislation. Thanks for the information. As a physician I can say we all definitely bear these costs.

  93. Senator,
    I use my seat belt. I don’t want the police to be able to stop us for not having a seat belt on. Enough of the police state on seat belts. They can cite us for not wearing the belt already. I worry people of color will be pulled over and be bullied over the belt.
    More education on belting up is enough for me.
    I see our children clicking the belt now more than ever.

  94. I’m fine with stricter seat belt laws, but the other driving violations that happen in the greater Boston area far exceed the issue of seatbelts. The running of red lights and stop signs, ignorance of pedestrians and cyclists (including opening doors without looking), turning without signaling, inability to park within spots, cyclists bicycling at night with no lights and cyclists’ brazen disregard for rules are all far greater issues than seat belt enforcement, in my opinion. Clearly, it’s an issue of enforcement and that falls to the local level, but I’d rather the state do something to encourage that.

  95. To be any kind of an incentive to wear a seat belt the fine should not be 50. It should be 500. And it most certainly should impact insurance rates. And while we’re at it make it admissible in civil trials as to whether a plaintiff was wearing a seat belt.

  96. I am not in favor of a primary seat belt law. We have seen too many times how “minor” police stops of people of color can turn into fatal confrontations all too easily. There are many traffic infractions going on constantly around us: running red lights, failure to yield, road rage behavior, speeding. These cause accidents; seat belts only affect outcomes. Let’s enforce the rules we have and let adults decide about their seat belt use.

  97. This seems like a no-brainer to me, so long as there is monitoring afterward to ensure that there isn’t unintended effects on minorities and others.

  98. Will–

    Everyone should wear a seat belt. How you get them to do it is the relevant question. I get the sense from the many replies to this column that people have issues with potential “exuberance” by law enforcement in enforcing such a law. Revenue enhancement, racial profiling, etc. are all real issues.

    Let me suggest another approach (which may already be the case, but which I have never seen discussed). Make failure to wear a seat belt contributory negligence, so someone not wearing a belt who is injured in an accident is limited in collecting damages (other than basic medical costs) from a driver who otherwise might be considered totally at fault. This would have to be a carefully thought statute so as not to have significant unintended consequences. Ad campaigns for seat belt use should clearly point out not only the physical risk, but also the financial risk of not wearing a belt. When accidents with these consequences start to appear on the 6:00 news, the statistically challenged may start to get the message.

    This approach gives people the right to assume any personal risk they want, but not the right to be compensated for their own risky behavior.

  99. I am not in favor of this Stricter Seat Belt Laws. Why just not enforce the law without raising the fees?
    As I can see this is another way of the government to squeeze every penny they can from us!

  100. Will,
    I like a society where each one can define its own life. I see the need for our governance to protect each of us from other’s individual choice, but not to meddle with our own.
    I share also the many concerns about police abuse. If such a law were to be passed, provision to prevent discrimination should be part of the law itself not as an afterthought.

    I am sensitive to the cost borne by others. A simplistic (linear) extrapolation using your source ( is that 12 prevented fatalities and correlated serious injuries would save $35 millions. I do not have the confidence in my 2 mn ball park nor the qualification to weigh the significance of this saving in term of Massachusetts budget.
    But it should be the only matter of discussion when removing a freedom, diverting police resources, and creating opportunity for abuse with its own costs…

    Thanks again for sharing and giving us pointer on primary sources of quality.

  101. Will, I am wholeheartedly in favor of this legislation and have studied the data for years. A primary enforcement law will reduce injuries and save lives. the medical and scientific journals testify to that. The NTSB, AAA, medical organizations and so many others support the measure. Note: In addition, the legislation will result in reduced medical expenditures and have some impact on the cost of health care, too. The question of racial profiling is always raised and it is a red herring. As former State Police head (and former republican Rep. Reed Hillman said when he was in the House (and I paraphrase) — There are over one thousand traffic regulations that a rouge police officer could use to pull over a driver. Changing this law from secondary to primary enforcement will not increase the incidence of those events. I strongly urge your support.

  102. I support this change in the law. Thanks for your acknowledgment of the concerns and response to those.

    Next up: banning smoking in public places!

  103. I do share the concern that texting while driving, and speeding are much bigger threats to society than not wearing seatbelts, and would prefer tougher legislation on those first. We know that many of these laws go unenforced most of the time. Police cannot be everywhere and we should be careful about where police resources are allocated. Most dangerous threats first. But I do agree with the premise of seatbelt laws.

  104. I remember when the current seat belt law was the subject of a very heated debate, particularly on the radio. I think that concerns about police activity must be carefully considered. This is an issue that could impact minorities and other citizens as well. I also think that if the police effectively enforced our existing traffic laws (such as speed limits and texting prohibition) that more lives might well be saved.I am inclined to leave this law as is.

  105. I am opposed to this change Will, with all the recent violent escalations by the police over traffic stops we do not need to give them another excuse to pull over drivers minding their own business.

  106. I am in favor of raising the penalty and think it should include stronger penalties for not properly restraining children as a primary offense. I am hesitant to have seat belts primary only because it may be used as an excuse to stop a vehicle.

  107. Personally I think that seat belt laws in general are an overreach by government into the lives of its citizens. If I don’t want to wear a seat belt, I shouldn’t have to. If I choose not to wear a seat belt, I shouldn’t be eligible to receive insurance money from an accident, even if I was not at fault.

    The only case where seat belts should be required is for children under the age of 18.

    So please, vote no on increasing the already inappropriate laws regarding seat belts.

  108. These days cars are equipped with so many airbags that some people think that seatbelts are not necessary. This is entirely untrue.I have been involved in stock car and sports car racing since the 60’s and used them long before they were required on passenger cars. They have saved countless lives on the race track – I’ve yet to see an airbag in a race car. I am strongly in favor of stricter enforcement of this law.

  109. Will,

    Thanks for the update on this seat belt bill. Paul and I fully support it!


  110. Will,

    It’s hard to argue against the proposed changes. Logically the change make sense. At the same time, providing the police the opportunity to stop drivers for a seat belt violation invites likely abuse.

    At speed, its hard to spot whether a driver is wearing a seat belt. Additionally, with all the challenges facing police forces today, this change will surely bring more accusations of inappropriate stops. While the law says no searches can be conducted, you can imagine numerous scenarios where a stop for a seatbelt offense could open the door to other citations etc..

    Lastly, while seat belts save lives, so does a better diet, exercising, etc.. We can’t expect legislation to be the answer for all of societies bad habits. And society pays for all of the bad habits whether through higher insurance premiums, taxes to fund public assistance programs, etc..

    I do not recommend passing this legislation.


  111. I agree with increased fines, but not with police stopping a vehicle solely for a seat belt issue. There is too much improper police force already, even in Watertown, and I would not want anything made into law that could increase racist or other “ist” actions by a police officer.

  112. What will the bureaucrats do for revenue once automobiles are all self – driving?
    If you go into any municipal court room in Massachusetts on any given day, you will see poor people and minorities being shaken down by the judicial system. What you won’t see are the well-to-do and the politically connected awaiting their turn to plead their cases.
    If you think that government is your friend, then you must be in the latter category. Congratulations.

  113. I am opposed to allowing police to stop vehicles only for seat belt infractions. I think this will result in more excuses to pull over minorities.
    However, I do support the higher fine of $50 for not wearing a seat belt, for those pulled over for other reasons.
    Thank you for requesting our input.
    I also think police should enforce having CHILDREN wear seat belts.

  114. Will,
    Absolutely agree with primary seat belt legislation. Should have been done years ago.

  115. I am not in favor of this new law. I would prefer to keep the laws that we have on the books at the present time. “No”.

  116. I fully support the use of seatbelts at all times but I do not support a primary seatbelt law. My concern with empowering law enforcement with the authority to perform traffic stops on citizens perceived not wearing a seatbelt is that it is very often difficult to visually determine compliance in moving traffic in varying lighting and weather conditions. How would non-compliance be proven if disputed? Will we have another law that requires all seatbelts in MA to be bright orange to contrast the vehicle operators clothing color? Will law enforcement be required to have high resolution cameras recording all passing traffic? This bill looks like another stealth tax on the citizens of MA, and would likely increase the risks of violations of the 4th Amendment Constitutional rights.

  117. Thank you for asking. I do NOT support making not wearing seatbelts a primary violation. It’s very difficult to determine whether an individual is wearing a seatbelt while driving, making the application of the law completely arbitrary. I do not believe that we need to provide yet another excuse to randomly stop vehicles and to increase fines in this state.

  118. Will, interesting discussion

    Summary thus far:

    There are 137 distinct responses, most of which are clear direction to vote No or Yes, although 20 of them are either off-topic or offer unclear direction *

    It’s an unscientific poll, but here’s the results:

    70 say “No – don’t support it”
    58 say “Yes – Support it”
    7 posts were unclear as to the direction
    2 posts were omitted from this analysis since they presented no commentary.

    Where sex was discernible by name, a majority of women (34 to 22) would recommend a Yes vote, a majority of men (46 to 24) would recommend a No vote.

    By-and-large the rational of the “yes” crowd goes like this: “Everyone should wear a seatbelt or be fined.”.

    The “No” crowd voices are far more textured and rich, but largely break down to (1) I don’t trust the police to use this power wisely (2) the police should be doing a better job of keeping the roads safe with the laws they have today (and should focus on meaningful enforcement, not harassment of minorities) (3) this sounds like a fundraiser for the Government (4) everyone should wear seatbelts (IE, there was almost no one who said they did not support the use of seatbelts, although one poster has a medical waiver for seatbelt use).

    A good number of the responses also address somewhat off topic issues, like seatbelts in school buses (which seem to be exempt from all seatbelt laws) and a request to focus on distracted driving which can actively cause accidents. There are several questions about who can be fined — for instance, can you be fined if your passengers don’t wear seat belts?

    Data below, apologies to anyone I mis-characterized (some of the response were not always “black and white” *

    * In the case of unclear direction I tried to pick a Y/N based on the comments. This can be misleading – for instance, some commentator said they would be in favor of the legislation, but only predicated on some other conditions (ie, that the police first enforce distracted driving). These were still counted but with the “Comment” column below indicating (I think 🙂 as a way of flagging these expressions.

    Sex Responder N Y Vote Comment
    m Dwight Doane (off topic)
    m John DeMeritt  (off topic)
    m Rich Braun (off topic)
    f Shela  (off topic)
    f Pat Deutch (poses a question…not answered)
    f Judith Poole (unclear response)
    m Paul Santos
    m Alex Nikitin 1 N (I think 🙂
    m Bill Weinstein 1 N (I think 🙂
    f Cheryl 1 N (I think 🙂
    m Geoff MacDonald 1 N (I think 🙂
    m Georges Brun-Cottan 1 N (I think 🙂
    m Kerry Maxwell  1 N (I think 🙂
    m richard hoove 1 N (I think 🙂
    m d. ostertag 1 N (I think 🙂
    f Carol Agate 1 N (note – wants stronger penalties first)
    f Jane Farber 1 N (There were caveats to this…)
    m Alex Marthews 1 N
    f Alix van Geel  1 N
    m Amer khalil 1 N
    m Andrew Bange 1 N
    f Anna Bedirian 1 N
    f Anne Leslie  1 N
    m Bart Siatkowski 1 N
    m Bill ovoian 1 N
    f CAROL BOGGS  1 N
    m Chris Peers 1 N
    m d. ostertag 1 N
    m Dean Martino 1 N
    m Dwight Doane 1 N
    f Edna Dugas 1 N
    m Eric 1 N
    m Fred Dampier 1 N
    f Gale Busa 1 N
    m Gary Duncan 1 N
    m Igor Novikov  1 N
    m Jaime Villarroel 1 N
    f Jeanne McDermott 1 N
    m Jim 1 N
    m Jim Aylward 1 N
    m jim sloman 1 N
    m Joe Levendusky 1 N
    m Joel Shaw  1 N
    f Karen 1 N
    f Kathleen O’Leary  1 N
    m Keith Morris  1 N
    m Kent Werth 1 N
    m Kevin Gallagher  1 N
    m Kris Field 1 N
    u L Hanna 1 N
    f Lauren O 1 N
    f Lisa  1 N
    f Lizzie de Rham 1 N
    f Lois Jacobs 1 N
    f Lynne S Brandon 1 N
    f Mary Ann Urban 1 N
    f Mary Ann Urban  1 N
    m michael Anctil  1 N
    m Michael Kelley 1 N
    m Mike Menzie 1 N
    m Nick 1 N
    f Pam 1 N
    m Peter R. Doliber 1 N
    m Rich Carlson 1 N
    m Rick Colson  1 N
    m Rob Chapman  1 N
    m Steve Gramolini 1 N
    m Steve Umans 1 N
    f sue prindle  1 N
    m Tom Barry 1 N
    m Tom Iannotti 1 N
    m Tom Woodbury 1 N
    f Trina 1 N
    m Vincent Capone 1 N
    m Virginia Connolly  1 N
    u w m schwartz 1 N
    m William Casey 1 N
    m Mike Barry 1 Y (but only for drivers, not for passengers)
    m Garrett barry 1 Y (I think 🙂
    f Martha krache 1 Y (I think 🙂
    f Sally Eyring 1 Y (yes, but a qaulified yes with restrictions)
    m AdamW 1 Y
    f Alice Johnson  1 Y
    f Andrea Maxwell 1 Y
    f ann bucciarelli 1 Y
    f Anna Clark 1 Y
    f Anne Covino Goldenberg  1 Y
    m Anthony Kelley  1 Y
    f Arun M. Sannuti 1 Y
    f Barb Cone 1 Y
    f Barbara Watertown 1 Y
    m Bruce Kline 1 Y
    m Burt Jaffe  1 Y
    f Caren Peters  1 Y
    f Carolyn Bishop  1 Y
    m David High 1 Y
    m David Teller 1 Y
    f Elayne Cantor 1 Y
    f Ellen Rothman 1 Y
    m Enzo Falco 1 Y
    f Fay Dabney 1 Y
    m Frederick Pritikin 1 Y
    f Helen Percy 1 Y
    m Herbert Epstein  1 Y
    m James Simpson 1 Y
    f Jamie W 1 Y
    f Jane Shapiro 1 Y
    m Jonathan Kamens 1 Y
    m Jonathan Roy 1 Y
    m Ken Stalberg 1 Y
    f Kimberly Shaknis 1 Y
    f Leah Ricci 1 Y
    f Lee Humphrey 1 Y
    f Leslie Horst 1 Y
    f Liz Seelman 1 Y
    f Marcia haskell  1 Y
    m Mark K. 1 Y
    f Martha 1 Y
    f Maureen Ryan  1 Y
    f Naomi dworkin 1 Y
    f Nicky  1 Y
    f Pamela Galgay  1 Y
    f Patricia McShane 1 Y
    m Peter Hill  1 Y
    m Peter Kim 1 Y
    m Sam Scoppettone 1 Y
    f Sandra Rosenblum 1 Y
    m Stephen Shestakofsky 1 Y
    m Steve Boyle  1 Y
    m Steve Klionsky 1 Y
    f Sue Bass 1 Y
    f Sue Fish 1 Y
    m Todd 1 Y
    m Tony Rufo 1 Y
    f Vanessa Tavilla  1 Y

  119. Note – sorry, in the analysis below I found one duplicate – the actual count is now 69 No, 58 Yes.

  120. I think moving to a primary seat belt law is a sensible idea whose time has come. John Grace

  121. I always use my seatbelt, but my husband doesn’t. Maybe the $50 fine would change that.

  122. What causes more accidents, people not wearing seat belts or people using cell phones? For the most part neither law can be enforced. This is more about revenue than anything else.

  123. Thank you for this helpful summary. This is an opportunity to learn from other states and their experiences may allay our fears of abuse of such a law. The death or serious injury which could have been prevented can be devastating for the family. The public tolerates required seat belt use on planes and plane travel is safer than automobile travel. I’m in favor of a stronger seat belt law. What have other states learned about making driving safer from texters and people on phones? I hope the legislature can make progress on that, too.

  124. I fully support a primary seat belt law in Massachusetts. The majority of the states in this country already have a primary seat belt law, and it has been shown to increase seat belt use and thus reduce motor vehicle fatalities. While I understand people’s conerns about racial targeting, that is a much larger issue that should be addressed separately as it can be applied to any violation or crime.

  125. Seatbelts save lives. But personal responsibility saves democracy. If someone wants to put their own face through their own windshield, that is personal safety issue, not a public safety issue.

    I would rather see our limited political resources spent on improving public safety of our roadways. The low-hanging fruit there is cell phone use. This is an issue that Massachusetts should be leading on. But we are being other states in both legislation and enforcement.

  126. Even though I always wear my seat belt and am encouraged that there is no insurance penalty, I have a serious concern, and that is abusive, targeted enforcement.
    legislation on reelling in phone/texting, as mentioned in other comments below, would likely prevent many more accidents and injuries.

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