Governor Lincoln D. Chafee has signed legislation today regarding seatbelts.
The new legislation repeals the sunset provision on the seatbelt law, which was going to expire on June 30, 2013. Failure to wear a seatbelt is remaining a primary offense in Rhode Island and the fine has now dropped from 85 dollars to 40 dollars if caught. The law makes it clear that if a person is stopped for not wearing a seatbelt police are not allowed to search the vehicle, driver, or an occupant unless there is another violation.
Prior to 2011, failure to wear a seatbelt was considered a secondary offense. Only when offenders committed a primary offense, such as speeding, could officers fine them.
Roughly 130 fatalities were reported between 2008 to 2012, all victims not wearing seatbelts. The RI Department of Transportation believes at least half were preventable if seatbelts were worn.
More than 30 states have seatbelt laws at a primary offense. Connecticut has reported that since it changed its law from secondary to primary the state has had its highest level of safety belt compliance.