Utah Senate Rejects Tougher Seat-Belt Law

Utah Senate Rejects Tougher Seat-Belt Law

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Senate killed legislation on Monday that would have elevated seat belt violations from a secondary to a primary offense. It was the third defeat so far this year for a tougher seat-belt law.

The Senate followed with another vote to let the Utah Highway Patrol use more than one unmarked car at a time when it enforces traffic laws against drunken and reckless drivers.

The Senate rejected the tougher seat-belt law by a vote of 14-13. It would have let police pull over drivers for no other offense than failing to buckle up. Now, officers can write a $45 seat-belt ticket only after a driver gets pulled over for another traffic offense.

Republicans unwilling to toughen the seat-belt law voted to give the Highway Patrol greater leeway to use unmarked cars, despite motorists' fears of being pulled over by criminals.

On Sunday, three men using flashing grill lights stopped and commandeered a van in southern Utah, robbing the driver and driving away with his nine passengers.

Sen. Bill Wright, R-Tooele, called that "the most compelling evidence I've heard for having officers in marked cars."

The suspects were arrested in Colorado, where police believe they staged two other Highway 191 robberies since Dec. 1.

Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, said his bill was amended to require troopers in unmarked cars to wear uniforms.

That assuaged most senators, who voted 15-11 to approve and send the legislation to the House, where two other seat-belt laws have failed to gain traction this session.

A House committee rejected a bill that would have mandated booster seats for children under 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall.

The full House rejected another measure that would have allowed police to cite adult passengers for not wearing a seat belt, not just an unbelted driver.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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