N.H. Safety Chief Opposes Mandatory Seat Belts

February 25, 2005

The chief of the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency says a bill to make seat belt use mandatory for adults is intrusive and unnecessary.

Peter Thomson said during a hearing on the bill this week that about two-thirds of New Hampshire adults already wear seat belts, up from about 16 percent in 1984.

“If we are now buckling up, voluntarily, two out of three adults, that’s a pretty good increase,” he said. “The adults who are buckling up voluntarily realize the lifesaving technique of buckling up.”

The bill would make an adult’s failure to buckle up a secondary violation, which means police could only cite a person if the driver was pulled over for some other reason, Thomson said.

New Hampshire law already requires anyone under age 18 to wear a belt, and children under age 6 and less than 55 inches tall must use child restraints. Police may stop drivers if children aren’t wearing seat belts or in child restraints.

Supporters of the bill have argued the economic, medical and related costs resulting from accidents, which the American Automobile Association has pegged at more than $1 billion in New Hampshire alone, make a mandatory seat-belt law necessary.

The bill would provide exemptions for school buses, motorcycles, antique cars, vehicles made before 1968 and taxis or other vehicles for hire. The bill also would provide an additional exemption for people delivering mail or newspapers.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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