AIA Urging Federal Incentive for Primary Seat Belt Laws

April 13, 2005

The American Insurance Association is urging the Senate Commerce Committee to include an incentive grant program in its transportation safety bill for states to enact primary seat belt laws, as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“When it comes to improving safety on our nation’s roads, adding this NHTSA recommendation is the single most effective measure Congress can pass,” said Melissa Shelk, AIA vice president, federal affairs.

The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to act on its version of the Surface Transportation Safety Improvement Act, April 14. The legislation provides a framework for improving transportation safety in several areas, including seat belt use. Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officials to stop motorists for the sole reason of not wearing a seat belt, even if no other traffic violation has occurred. Providing this incentive program will reportedly encourage states that have not yet enacted a primary seat belt program to do so.

“Improving traffic safety has always been a priority for AIA in the states, and now we have an opportunity to have Congress recognize the importance of primary seatbelt laws at the federal level with this incentive grant program,” Shelk said.

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study released this year reportedly found that when states strengthen their seat belt laws by moving from secondary enforcement to primary enforcement, driver death rates decline an estimated seven (7) percent.

Motor vehicle accidents cost approximately $230 billion annually. These costs are sustained first by crash victims and their families, and then by insurance consumers through higher than necessary premiums, by employers through lost productivity, and by taxpayers who pay a large amount of crash-related medical costs.

“Traumatic injury from motor vehicle crashes is the leading killer of younger people,” said David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel. “More than 120,000 people have died and more than 9 million have been injured on U.S. roadways during the past three-and-one-half years. Safety belts work to protect people in all kinds of accidents, including drunk driving crashes, rollovers and head-on collisions.

“There are virtually no costs for motorists to use seat belts and there is no question that they save a lot of lives,” Snyder continued. “The equipment is already in the car – people just need to use it.”

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