Arizona would get $12 million in federal funds if it adopted a law allowing officers to ticket drivers solely for failing to wear seat belts, a state highway safety official said.
State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, is sponsoring a bill to do just that. She said she proposed SB 1411 in part for the funding but also to get people to wear safety belts.
“Every time they get in the car, they need to put their seat belts on,” she said.
About 60 percent of vehicle fatalities in Arizona involve people failing to buckle up, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Richard Fimbres, director of the Governor’s Office on Highway Safety, said the state could also get up to $1 million in incentives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to help with freeway safety if another state senator’s proposal on child-restraint systems becomes law.
“It would help us buy more booster seats for the state of Arizona,” he said.
Both proposals are among those that AAA Arizona contends would make Arizona’s roadways safer. The organization is also supporting a bill that would require seat belts on school buses
Sen. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, has introduced legislation that would require children 8 and younger and shorter than 4 feet 9 inches to be secured in child-restraint systems. SB 1050 also would add booster seats to the state’s definition of child-restraint systems.
Forty-four states including California have laws requiring booster seats, which are used to position seat belts properly on children who have graduated from car seats. In Arizona, only those younger than 5 are required to travel in some kind of child-restraint system.
Gray said her bill could face opposition because it would cost parents money in a tough economy, but she added that the benefits of booster seats outweigh the cost. Kids who aren’t properly restrained are more susceptible to internal injuries in crashes because seat belts lie across the neck and abdomen, she said.
Linda Gorman, a spokeswoman for AAA Arizona, said bills similar to Gray’s have failed to make it to committee in previous sessions. She said she hopes this version will at least get a hearing.
“We view the current law as very flawed,” Gorman said. “Kids should be protected until they’re tall enough to fit into an adult seat belt.”
Under SB 1050, violations would carry a $50 fine, but that would be waived once parents equip their cars with proper child restraints. The fines would be placed in a fund that helps low-income families afford car seats.
Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, wants to mandate seat belts on school buses. Neither he nor AAA Arizona expects HB2211 to pass, but Miranda said he raised the issue because he’d like it to eventually move forward.
“Usually it takes more than one effort for this kind of legislation to have success,” he said. “Cost is going to be the primary deterrent.”
Here are bills introduced this legislative session that AAA Arizona contends would make the state’s roadways safer. For more information on a bill or to track its progress, visit www.azleg.gov and enter the bill number with no space (example: HB2211) in the Bill Number Search box at top right:
• HB 2002: Would require motorists to move over a lane of traffic, if safe, when a tow truck is assisting a stranded motorist on the side of the road. Sponsor: Rep. Konopnicki, R-Safford.
• SB 1050: Would require children older than 5 but younger than 9 and shorter than 4 feet 9 to be secured in booster seats when riding in motor vehicles. Sponsor: Sen. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix.
• HB 2168: Before the installation of a photo enforcement system on any state highway, would require state officials to determine if the location of the device is necessary to ensure public safety. Sponsor: Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert.
• HB 2211: Would require school buses to be equipped with lap belts and require each passenger to be properly restrained. Sponsor: Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix.
• HB 2297: Would prohibit unconscionable pricing or hoarding of essential goods or services during a state of emergency or market disruption. Sponsors: Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe; Rep. Edward Ableser, D-Tempe; Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff; Sen. Amanda Aguirre, D-Yuma.
• HB 2351: With some exceptions, would require vehicles with a declared gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds to have loads safely covered. Sponsor: Rep. Lucy Mason, R-Prescott.
• SB 1066: Would increase the look-back window for a second or subsequent violation of racing on a street or highway from 24 months to 48 months and toughen penalties for the offense. Sponsor: Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix.
ON THE WEB
AAA Arizona: www.aaaaz.com
Governor’s Office of Highway Safety: www.azgohs.gov