The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

March 18, 2013

Primary offense

Legislation to make seatbelts mandatory will save lives

— Imagine passing a state law that would potentially save dozens of lives each year.

In addition, over a million dollars in never-before tapped federal funds would begin streaming into state coffers upon the passage.

That’s exactly what making a primary offense for not wearing a seatbelt would do for the state of West Virginia.

A House of Delegates committee approved a first-offense seat belt bill last week, sending it to the full 100-member body for the first time, according to published reports.

While recent focus on highway safety has been on texting and other uses of hand-held mobile phones — which are very important issues, as well — no bill that deals with safety of drivers and passengers on our roads would do as much widespread good as a primary seatbelt law.

Face it, not everyone tweets, texts or makes calls while driving.

Yet everyone has a seatbelt option in their lap.

Opponents may cry out about government overreach.

Whose business is it anyway if one doesn’t buckle up, they surmise.

But serious injuries to accident victims who crash without a seatbelt on end up relying on taxpayers’ dollars to foot their bills.

That comes back on all of us, unnecessarily.

As statistics have improved in the area of seatbelt use over the past few decades, it has been definitively proved to save lives.

Those are cold hard facts.

While there are many issues of importance — economically, socially and otherwise — to take up during the legislative session, this is one that needs to be settled finally.

The Senate has passed seatbelt bills in each legislative session since 2009, but they have died in a House committee each time.

We hope this gets done once and for all.

For everyone’s health and safety.