Update: SB18-053 failed to make it out of a Senate committee on January 24th. The bill failed in a 3-2 vote with further discussion postponed indefinitely.
(EL PASO COUNTY) – With 629 traffic deaths in 2017 across the state and 76 in El Paso County alone, lawmakers are considering passing stronger laws aimed at providing another incentive for drivers to buckle up.
State lawmakers could soon be voting a proposed bill that would make it a primary offense for drivers who do not wear their seat belt, which means officers could pull you over if they see you unbuckled.
Maile Gray, executive director of Drive Smart Colorado, an organization dedicated to promoting driver safety, said she believes this enforcement is much needed.
“I think it’s a shame that we have to enact this to save people from themselves,” Gray stated.
Drive Smart said similar bills have been shot down numerous times over the past two decades. But due to the large amount of fatalities last year, both local and state organizations said they think it stands a good chance to pass.
“I’m pretty confident. I think that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in the chamber know that these are consequential issues,” said Denver Democratic State Senator Lois Court.
Colorado is one of 16 states without a primary seat belt law. The Centennial state ranks 36th in seat belt usage in the U.S., something the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been trying to fight in recent years.
Drive Smart said El Paso County leads the state in traffic deaths where drivers or passengers aren’t wearing seat belts. In 2017, 65 percent of all traffic fatalities in El Paso County were un-belted, and from 2016 to 2017, there has been a 41 percent increase in fatalities from people who were not wearing seat belts.
“From statistics we have from other states, we know there is an increase in seat belt use rate at the same time that there is a decrease in traffic fatalities,” said Gray.
If the law passes, and drivers choose to break that law, it could impact their wallet.
“It does mean, that they will have the ability to write a ticket, if you are not wearing a seat belt,” Gray went on.