Government
1:00 am
Mon February 18, 2013

Bills seek to toughen seatbelt, texting while driving laws

Two bills in the Nebraska Legislature would make it a primary offense to not wear a seatbelt or to text while driving.

Both measures were recently heard in the Unicameral’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. Right now, not wearing a seatbelt is a secondary offense—meaning drivers can’t be pulled over just for that.

District 1 Senator Dan Watermeier, a member of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, says seatbelt use in Nebraska was 79 percent in 2012. Watermeier says supporters of the bill believe it could boost seatbelt use to 90 percent.

“Proponents testified that primary seatbelt laws save lives, reduce injuries, and lower crash costs to society. Opponents feared that making a seatbelt law a primary offense could lead to racial profiling by police. Others questioned how far the government should intrude in to personal decision-making.”

Nebraska law requires all front-seat occupants and children under 18 to wear seatbelts. If the measures become law, a first-time offense for not wearing a seatbelt would be a $100 fine.

LB 118 would make texting while driving a primary offense.