Photo/Story Gallery 2005

Primary Safety Belt Law Passes!

State Representative SlosbergThe Florida Legislature recently passed important primary safety belt legislation, adding strength to Florida’s Safety Belt Law. Originally, a bill was proposed that would apply to all occupants in the vehicle. However, the revised, limited version of the law will only apply to those under 18 years of age.

For the past several years, Representative Irv Slosberg (left) of Boca Raton has worked tirelessly to pass a primary safety belt law in Florida. He was motivated by the memories of his 14-year old daughter, Dori, who died in a traffic crash nine years ago. She was not buckled up. “I don’t want any other family to have to go through what my family and I have gone through. I feel very strongly that [a primary safety belt law] is going to save a lot of lives.” Finally, Florida has its primary safety belt law!

Seat Belt BillboardFlorida’s most recent safety belt usage rate is 76.3 percent (drivers and front-seat passengers), according to last year’s survey conducted by Florida State University at 351 intersections across the state June 7-20, 2004, following an intensive annual Click It or Ticket safety belt campaign.

Despite the increased safety belt usage rate, traffic crash fatalities remain the number one cause of death for Florida’s teenagers–a cause of death that is preventable in nearly 80% of the crashes. Hopefully, the new Primary Safety Belt Law can save more lives–at least those under 18.

Federal statistics show that 59% of all people who died in traffic crashes from 2000-2003 were not wearing safety belts. And 71% of young men ages 16-29 who died in crashes were not wearing safety belts. In Florida, that statistic is higher than the national average. In Florida, 79% of the young men who died in crashes were not wearing safety belts. Experts agree that increasing safety belt compliance through primary enforcement by just 11% could save 192 lives in Florida in just one year.

Many states have passed primary safety belt laws and have enjoyed higher safety belt compliance rates and lower fatalities after doing so. For example, Illinois passed a primary law in 2003. Last year, that state had its lowest highway fatality rate in 60 years. So far, 21 states have adopted some form of primary safety belt legislation. Now, Florida joins their ranks.

Many agree that Florida will reap great benefits from having a primary safety belt law, including the number one benefit: Saving Lives! It is estimated that with each 1% increase in safety belt usage in the United States, 2.8 million lives are saved nationwide.

It is projected that a primary safety belt law in Florida will save 262 lives, prevent 6,200 serious injuries, and save taxpayers $636 million. In addition, Florida will receive an additional $37 million in federal highway funds just for enacting primary safety belt legislation.

To see the text of the new law, select this link.