Stronger Seat Belt Law Could Be Coming to Florida

For the first time in years, a proposal to allow police to stop you just for not wearing your seat belt stands a chance of passing at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

Supporters say Florida could save nearly 200 lives a year and bring in $30 million in incentives from the federal government by passing a so-called "Primary Stop" law.

Kevin Bakewell can smile now when he looks at this wrecked car, but it was a different story when he saw it for the first time after a hit and run driver smashed into his daughter on the highway.

"I really was at a loss for words, and just thinking, ‘thank God she had her seat belt on and that her airbag worked properly,’ because these things combined are the only things that saved her life.”

As an executive with the AAA Auto Club, but also as a father, Bakewell is hoping a measure to let police pull over motorists who aren't buckled up will finally pass at the capitol this year.

But for some people, the concern isn't so much about safety, it's about harassment by police, especially in the minority community, there remain fears that it's just another excuse for cops to pull you over.

Supporters hope they've finally addressed those fears by adding a requirement that police note the race of the people they pull over, and issue a report each year.

Ed Jennings pushed for the amendment.

"Juxtaposing the issue of racial profiling with safety, safety wins out, but we want to have an accountability measure.”

Still, a bigger hurdle may be Senate President Tom Lee.

"I have been very consistent in my opposition to the primary seatbelt law, and I've been very explicit in that I think it's over-reaching for government.”

But Lee promised not to keep the seat belt bill from at least getting a vote in the Senate if its supporters can finally get it to the floor.

The Primary Stop seat belt bill has one remaining committee to clear in both the Senate and House before it can go before either chamber for a vote. The governor has said he will sign it if it makes it to his desk.


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