Police: No waiting to enforce seat belt rule

Failing to wear a seat belt is now a primary offense, and drivers are already being ticketed.

Published: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 10:52 p.m.

Drivers not wearing their seat belts may know that it's not the safest of practices. They may even know that keeping the belt off is against the law.

But now law enforcement officers can pull over drivers and passengers riding shotgun just for not being buckled up. Florida's new "primary" seat belt law came into effect on Tuesday, and drivers around Alachua County were ticketed the first day.

The fact that wearing a seat belt is the law is nothing new, said Alachua County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard. What has changed is the enforcement.

"You have primary and secondary offenses, and the seat belt violation was a secondary offense," Maynard said. "In the past, if I saw you driving down the street and you weren't wearing your seat belt, there was nothing I could do about it other than find a primary offense to pull you over for.

"Now, if we pull up to a red light and I see you don't have your seat belt on, I can pull you over just for that."

Drivers who get caught face a $30 statewide penalty, plus an added county penalty. In Alachua County, the total cost of the ticket for a seat belt violation is $104. It applies to the driver of the car, the front seat passenger and passengers in the back seat under 18.

"You can expect that it will be enforced very aggressively," Maynard said. "Last year, we had six high school-aged kids that died in accidents that were determined to be survivable had they been wearing a seat belt.

"That's what this law is for. It will ultimately save lives."

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