Although similar attempts have been made in the past, the Rhode Island legislature is once again considering a bill to toughen state seat belt laws. It goes without saying that seat belts can save lives and reduce the severity of injuries in serious auto accidents, yet thousands still fail to buckle up every time they get in their car.
Under the current laws, the police can issue a citation for failure to wear a seat belt, but only if they stopped you for another moving violation. In other words, the police can not pull over an adult driver (the laws are different for drivers under 18) if the only law he or she is breaking is failure to wear a seat belt.
Under the new proposal, police would be allowed to make a traffic stop solely for seat belt use and issue a $75 citation if caught operating without a seatbelt. Thirty States already have similar laws, but previous attempts to pass such a law in Rhode Island have failed. This time around, however, there is $4 million dollars in federal money available if the State should pass such a law.
What I like about this newly proposed law is that it prevents the police from conducting a search of the vehicle unless a violation other than the seat belt was also committed. In other words, police will not be able to use lack of a seat belt to conduct random unwarranted searches of vehicles and persons, unless additional probable cause exists.