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In this upcoming legislation session, debate will again take place regarding a - page 3 / 4





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passenger in violation of our current law to stop the vehicle and issue a $25 fine. Passing this proposed primary seat belt law will not change legal cases scrutinizing what is a reasonable search and seizure and therefore will not compromise any persons constitutional privileges and protections under Article 4 of the Bill of Rights. Arguments that police with ulterior motives use minor traffic laws to stop vehicles cannot invalidate police conduct when it is justified on the basis of probable cause. Moreover, in 1994, the Massachusetts Legislature wisely made our mandatory seat belt law simply a civil infraction, for which an arrest cannot be made. Any change in the law will not affect any persons motor vehicle insurance surcharge points or increase your premiums; this traffic rule making seat belts a primary offense is a non-surchageable offense. The proposed new law also states that failure to wear one’s seat belt cannot be used as evidence of contributory negligence, meaning if you get into a crash without a seat belt your insurance company can’t deny your claim because of your failure of buckling up.

For those who are worried about the number of citations, there is evidence that behavior does change over time with a uniformly enforceable seat belt law. Again according to AAA, the number of citations decreases while the user rate increases over time. In 1993, the state of California became the first state to transition from secondary to primary seat belt law. From 1990 to 2000, safety belt citations written by the California Highway Patrol have decreased by 73%. California’s belt use rate of 90% is the highest in the country.

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