Legislation on SUV regulations moves to Senate

Louisiana’s House of Representatives has voted 89-1 on HB 197 and passed it on to the state senate.

After two floor debates, final amendments to the bill were made and adopted the title. The bill was thus ordered to the Senate, where it was read twice and assigned to the Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works April 3.

The bill will require all occupants of a motor vehicle weighing 10,000 or more tons to wear a seatbelt. At present, the law does not include the category of Sports Utility Vehicle.

Troopers and policemen across the state have been issuing tickets for non-use of seatbelts that, according to Rep. Burns, are often being thrown out by judges on technicalities.

A former state trooper inspired the bill. His retiring request was that Rep. Burns, a Republican from Haughton, find a way to bring this issue to the state legislature to be resolved.

Burns informed the House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works that SUVs are a relatively new category of vehicle, which is why they have yet to be addressed in current law. He says this bill is “simply an update” on laws already in place.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, in some states, police officers can only stop and ticket a seatbelt violation as a “secondary enforcement,” meaning that a driver cannot be pulled over and ticketed for the sole offense of not wearing a seatbelt. Only after being pulled over for speeding, running a stop sign, etc. can an officer issue a non-use of seatbelt violation.

In Louisiana, drivers can be stopped and ticketed as a “primary enforcement,” meaning that not wearing a seatbelt may be the sole cause for an officer to stop and ticket a driver.

The fine for passengers not wearing a seatbelt is $25.

All 50 states as well as the District of Columbia have separate restraint laws for children, though the ages vary.

In 16 states, damages in a traffic-related lawsuit may be reduced if the victim was not wearing a seatbelt. Louisiana is not one of these states.

According to dmv.org, most states already have laws in place that include the category of SUV.

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