Did State Legislators Sacrifice Federal Funding to Kill a Seat Belt Law?

February 10 2010, 9:44 AM

Kopp, MikeThe Legislature has sidestepped a bill that would have allowed police officers to pull over drivers who are not wearing seat belts and has likely lost $12 million in federal grant money for safety projects in the process. Senator Suzanne Williams, an Aurora Democrat, pulled her bill after realizing she didn't have the votes to pass it. But not before representatives from Colorado State Patrol and the medical community testified that a law requiring drivers and their passengers to buckle up would save lives---about 26 Coloradans a year, notes 9News. Senator Mike Kopp (right), a Jefferson County Republican, says he stood against the bill because his job is to "protect the freedom of individuals to do what they want to." Some critics fear that a seat belt law would give police officers an easy pretext to stop drivers, presenting a hassle. But State Patrol Colonel Jim Wolfinbarger, the head of Colorado State Patrol, says, "The goal here isn't to write tickets. The goal here is to get people buckled up so that fewer people are dying in our cars."

The bill died just as icy weather provoked two serious injuries near Pueblo, including one in which Ofelia Diaz-Padilla, 52, of Commerce City, was ejected from her vehicle. She was not wearing a seat belt, reports The Pueblo Chieftain. Her condition was unknown at press time. Meanwhile, in an investigation, Grand Junction's NBC News 11 found 90 percent of child restraints in Colorado that were checked by experts were not properly used by parents and needed to be corrected, meaning the children could have been at risk for injury or death in an accident.