New Jersey Weighs Mandatory Car Seat Belt Requirement

March 27, 2008

New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Wednesday will officially receive a recommendation that the state require all motor vehicle passengers to wear seat belts.

It’s part of a report on teen driving safety and comes nearly a year after Corzine was nearly killed in an April 12 car accident in which he wasn’t wearing a seat belt in violation of state law.

Corzine, who was a front-seat passenger in the state police-driven sport utility vehicle that crashed along the Garden State Parkway, voluntarily paid the $46 fine and filmed a public service announcement advocating seat belt usage.

Since the crash, New Jersey seat belt usage has increased, according to state highway traffic safety officials. According to a survey conducted during a seat belt advocacy campaign last year, the statewide seat belt usage rate stands at a record 91.4 percent.

Under current law, however, adult passengers in the rear seats of an automobile are not required to wear seat belts. A bill to require all passengers to wear them was approved recently by the Assembly, but hasn’t received Senate consideration.

“Seat belts save lives, and it’s past time we required everyone in a car to wear them,” said Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May.

Safety advocates hope Corzine will embrace the idea.

“t’s been a challenging year, which makes it unfair to judge his engagement on this issue yet,”said David Weinstein of the AAA Clubs of New Jersey, referencing state fiscal problems and the time it took Corzine to recover from the crash. “Opportunities still exist.”

Under the Assembly-passed bill, failure to wear a seat belt would be considered a primary offense, meaning a law enforcement officer could stop a vehicle and issue a ticket to the driver for any passenger not wearing a seat belt.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found the use of seat belts by back seat passengers reduces the chance of death and serious injury in a motor vehicle accident by up to 75 percent.

“Buckling up for a trip around the corner or a trip around the state is a habit that drivers and passengers alike need to adopt,” said Assemblyman Matt Milam, D-Cape May.

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