Colorado Lawmakers to Debate Tougher Seat Belt Laws

Colorado traffic fatalities are up 25 perent in the past three years, and state legislators will be asked to support tougher seat belt laws to address the problem. (dmv.org)

DENVER – Colorado traffic fatalities climbed for the second year in a row in 2017, and supporters of Senate Bill 53 maintain tougher seat belt laws could reduce the numbers.

Sen. Lois Court of Denver will present the bill to the Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday.

Colorado is one of only 17 states with a secondary offense, rather than primary offense, seat belt law.

That means police officers are only allowed to ticket a driver or passenger not wearing a seat belt if the car is pulled over for some other reason.

Sam Cole, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, estimates 22 deaths could be prevented each year with a primary seat belt law.

"Well, states that have primary seat belt laws tend to have greater use of seat belts, which translates into lives saved," he points out.

The number of Colorado fatalities has risen 25 percent in the past three years.

Opponents of the primary law say they don’t like putting more pressure on police officers and that stricter laws impinge on personal freedom.

Across the nation, 90 percent of drivers use their seat belts, while only 84 percent of Colorado drivers buckle up.

Cole says that’s partly why the state is seeing an average of two people killed on Colorado roadways every day.

"You can be the best driver on the road but you never know when a drunk driver or a drowsy driver or a distracted driver – those are our Three Ds – may be out there and present a threat to you,” he states. “You need to do everything you can to protect yourself, so that’s why you need to buckle up."

CDOT argues the primary law is necessary because in addition to fatalities, 2,300 serious injuries were related to traffic accidents last year, driving up health care costs for all Coloradans.

SB 53 also would require all passengers in private vehicles – not just the driver and front seat passenger – to buckle up.

Roz Brown, Public News Service – CO

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