AIA Tips Hat to Senate for Approving Bill to Improve Highway Safety

May 18, 2005

While the U.S. Senate approved its version of the “Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users” (TEA LU) by a wide margin, the American Insurance Association (AIA) will reportedly continue fighting for a strong final bill as it now moves to a House-Senate conference to reconcile differences.

“We are pleased that our number one priority, the Occupant Protection Safety Grant program, was preserved in the Senate bill and it will remain a major issue for us when this legislation goes to conference,” said Melissa Shelk, AIA vice president, federal affairs.

Approved by an 89-11 vote, the Senate version of H.R. 3 contains numerous highway and auto safety measures that were adopted with impressive bipartisan support.

Enactment of primary enforcement seat belt laws, integral to the Occupant Protection Safety Grant program, is reportedly a top priority for AIA at both the state and federal levels. During deliberations, Senators George Allen (R-VA) and John Ensign (R-NV) offered an amendment to weaken the primary enforcement seat belt incentive grant program.

“AIA played an active role in the sound rejection of this amendment,” Shelk said. The House version does not contain the seat belt program, and Shelk added, “We will be aggressive in making sure the primary enforcement seat belt incentive grant program stays in the legislation when the bill comes out of conference.”

The program provides incentives for states to enact primary enforcement seat belt laws as well as grants to those states that have already enacted such laws. Primary enforcement seat belt laws allow law enforcement officials to stop motorists for the sole reason of not wearing a seat belt, even if no other traffic violation has occurred. Its inclusion in TEA-LU was also strongly supported by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration.

“Seat belts work to protect people in all kinds of accidents, including drunk driving crashes, rollovers and head-on collisions,” Shelk said. “The U.S. Department of Transportation has estimated that 1,200 lives per year would be saved if all states enacted primary enforcement seatbelt laws.”

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