Group Wants to Unbuckle Part of State's Seat-Belt Law
The Washington Seatbelt Coalition will begin gathering signatures next week to put a portion of the state's seat-belt law on the ballot.
The group wants to undo the state Legislature's decision last year allowing police to stop and cite motorists who aren't buckled up even if they're not suspected of any other violation.
Before June 2002, failure to wear a seat belt was a secondary infraction. That meant police could cite motorists for the seat-belt violation only if they were pulled over for some other traffic infraction or crime.
Erma Turner is lining up supporters from her beauty shop, Erma's Clip 'n Curl, in Cle Elum. She hopes to have petitions in hand for signatures next week.
The issue, Turner said, is one of personal liberty.
"They took my right away from me. I can think for myself," Turner said.
She added that she has not been ticketed: "I'm a good girl."
Turner said she doesn't think it's fair that students on school buses don't wear seat belts, and she wonders how police enforce the law against drivers whose cars sport tinted windows.
Finally, she suspects the state is using the law to raise revenue. Violators risk an $86 fine.
"It's a moneymaker," Turner said.
A statewide advertising campaign to educate drivers about the law started last Memorial Day.
John Moffat, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, said the "Click-It or Ticket" campaign and the law have combined to increase seat-belt use from 82 percent to 93 percent, the highest rate in the nation.
"Our goal is to educate people, not ticket them," Moffat said.
The state receives funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation for increasing seat-belt use. Last year, that amounted to about $1.95 million, Moffat said.
About $530,000 paid for overtime for police, sheriff's department and State Patrol officers to enforce the new law, Moffat said. The ad campaign cost $450,000.
Another $650,000 was spent on safety initiatives by the state Department of Transportation and the State Patrol, according to Moffat.
He said another ad campaign is planned for this spring.
Roy Ruffino of Lacey, Wash., president of the Seatbelt Coalition, said the group needs 197,734 signatures by July 3 to place the question on the November ballot.
If the signatures are certified, the measure would become Initiative
836. The group's Web site is www.i-836.org.
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