The Clinton administration’s long-awaited, and already controversial, plan to use state sanctions to boost seat belt use to 90 percent by 2005 will be released today.
The Clinton administration wants to use $125 million in incentives over six years to entice states to adopt tougher belt laws and boost belt use, according to a summary of the belt recommendations obtained by the Detroit Free Press.
If that carrot doesn’t work, President Clinton wants to use a stick.
For states that don’t have 85 percent belt use by 2000, Clinton has proposed legislation that would shift 1.5 percent of a state’s federal highway construction funds to safety and belt use programs. After 2003, 3 percent of a state’s construction money would be redirected.
Giving urgency to the belt push: 38 children and 24 adults have been killed by air bags. Most of those were not properly buckled. And only 68 percent of Americans wear seat belts, despite laws in 49 states that make wearing seat belts mandatory.
But the proposal is sure to rile state legislators who don’t like the federal government telling them what to do. The National Association of Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives, which oversees road money and safety programs, has already written to Clinton opposing the sanctions.
But sanctions would give the administration’s belt plan, which is short on specific tactics for getting compliance, real power.
According to the summary, the belt use push will rely on four elements:
Building public private partnerships to boost belt and child seat use. Clinton will issue an order requiring all federal employees to buckle up when on the job. Belt use will be required on military bases, National Parks, and other federal lands. Government agencies, doctors, nurses, teachers will be urged to help.
Enacting state laws that allow police officers to pull over and ticket drivers who don’t buckle up themselves or child passengers. Currently, only 11 states have laws allowing this. In 38 states, officers can ticket for belt use violations only if they stop a driver for another traffic violation.
Conducting “active, high visibility law enforcement” of seat belt and child safety seat laws. Frequent, high-profile enforcement in North Carolina is credited with boosting belt use to 83 percent. Only six states have belt use of more than 80 percent.
Expanding “effective public education programs.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.