15 states considering seat-belt law change

COLUMBUS (AP) — More cash-strapped states want to give law enforcement officers the authority to pull over motorists who aren’t wearing seat belts.

The 15 states, including Ohio, that are considering making the switch need to do so before July to be eligible for millions in federal money.

Ohio would get $26.8 million from the federal government. Currently, law enforcement officers in the state need to have some other reason to stop drivers over before issuing seat-belt citations.

Gov. Ted Strickland proposed the change in his two-year budget plan released Monday. The state Legislature has previously balked at making the change.

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia already have primary seat-belt enforcement laws, meaning police can stop a vehicle for a seat belt violation, even if this is the only violation the officers notice.

Ohio faces a $7.3 billion projected budget deficit over the next two years compared to current funding levels, leading Strickland to propose 120 fee and fine hikes, payroll reductions for state employees, and the delay of debt payments into future years.

The federal money attached to seat-belt enforcement can be spent only for highway-related projects.

2008, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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