Primary offense seatbelt law stirs debate at Statehouse

Dee DeQuattro

As the primary offense seatbelt law approaches its sunset in June lawmakers are introducing new legislation to extend the law and it is being met with passionate arguments on both sides.

The law which allows police officers to pull over motorists for the offense of not wearing their seatbelts and institute a fine of $80 will expire June 30 if lawmakers don't vote to eliminate the sunset provision in the initial bill passed in 2011.

The legislation is being sponsored by Senator Joshua Miller and was heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Advocates rallied about the importance of wearing a seatbelt while other groups like the Rhode Island ACLU argued the primary offense seatbelt law is an infringement on personal liberties.

Opponents of the primary offense seatbelt law have been very outspoken.

In 2012 Representative Jared Nunes proposed legislation to repeal the primary offense seatbelt law claiming that the law was too strict.

Local talk show host Matt Allen has gone so far as to start a petition protesting extending the law. In 2012, Allen handed a similar petition of over 1,000 signatures to the leadership of the General Assembly.