Agriculture Committee Kills Seat-Belt Bill

Agriculture Committee Kills Seat-Belt Bill

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A bill that would have allowed police to stop and ticket motorists for not wearing seat belts has been killed by the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.

The current law allows seat-belt citations to be issued only when a motorist is pulled over for some other infraction.

The rural-dominated committee tabled the bill on a 10-3 vote Tuesday evening.

Rep. Brad Johnson, R-Aurora, said there's no question seat belts save lives, but the government shouldn't tell people to use them.

"I think there's too much government interference in our lives," Johnson said. "Where does this stop? Next year will you be telling me to brush my teeth?"

"I was told by a member of your body yesterday that Natural Resources is the place where they send bills to die," bill co-sponsor Sen. Dan Eastman, told the committee. He urged the committee to help save lives, "not kill a bill."

Supporters ranged from the Utah Highway Patrol to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Jaynie Brown of MADD also told the committee that she understood the public-safety bill had been sent to the agriculture committee so that it would be killed.

She said the deaths of people not wearing seat belts are not confined to city dwellers.

"The most alarming statistics tell us that many rural residents are dying," she said.

David Horn, an engineer at Hill Air Force Base, spoke against the bill.

He said he and his family wear their seat belts, but, "I think this is a matter of freedom. The fact that it's going to save your life is not directly related to somebody else's life."

Laura Lee Adams of the Sutherland Institute spoke against the bill as an attack against "stupid people."

"A seat belt is more a hallmark of wisdom. As unwise as stupid people are, they can still be attentive and good drivers," Adams said.

The Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System at the University of Utah found that each year people spend $6.6 million in hospital charges due to injuries resulting from not wearing a seat belt.

It said 174 people die of such injuries.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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