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Eye On Boise

Senate kills teens’ seatbelt pilot project bill on 8-25 vote

The Senate has killed legislation proposed by a group of students to try a pilot project of a year of warnings, followed by allowing drivers under age 18 to be cited for seatbelt violations even when they’re not being pulled over for another offense – something Idaho currently doesn’t allow for any drivers, as it has only a secondary, rather than primary, seatbelt law. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, “This comes from a group of kids who have seen their own peers lose their lives through texting, through inattentive driving, and through not using their seatbelts.”

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, argued vigorously against the bill, SB 1312a, saying it’d be impossible for an officer to tell if someone was under 18. “There are many 15-year-olds that look 22,” Rice said. “The United States Constitution and our Idaho Constitution prohibit pulling someone over without probable cause. If you cannot tell how old the driver is, if you don’t know, you don’t have probable cause. This language invites our police officers to pull people over that they aren’t sure. … It invites our police officers to violate the U.S. Constitution. It invites them to violate the Idaho Constitution. It’s not something that can be made to work without violating the Constitution. For that reason I cannot support it.”

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, argued in favor of the bill, saying it’s no different than the current law that requires motorcycle helmets for those under 18, but not for adults. “Do this pilot program to see if it makes a difference,” he said. “It’s time to make a change to see if it saves a couple of lives.”

Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, told the Senate, “I haven’t been able to support seatbelt laws in general. I don’t really think it’s a primary function of our government.” He said, “We often have these conflicts between safety and liberty, and it’s often for the most beneficial reason like seatbelt laws. But I do think we have to be careful when we do that.”

The bill was killed on an 8-25 vote. The eight "yes" votes came from Sens. Brackett, Davis, Hagedorn, Keough, Lacey, Patrick, Souza and Winder. Sens. Lakey and Schmidt were absent; all other senators voted "no."



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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