A national safety group is looking for the state of Massachusetts to pass a new primary seat belt law that would make it illegal for drivers to operate vehicles without buckling up.
As part of its annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws report, released Wednesday, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety faulted the Commonwealth for not passing a primary enforcement law that allows police to pull over and cite drivers who aren't wearing seat belts, and is looking for the state to pass the proposed primary seat belt bill, Senate Bill 1115, to help increase safety on the roads.
Currently, police in Massachusetts need to stop unbelted drivers for another violation before citing them for not wearing seat belts, but the safety group also faulted the state for mandating ignition interlock devices only for repeat drunk drivers, rather than for first-time offenders who may have already driven drunk more than 80 times. Car-related fatalities increased in 2012, both in Massachusetts and across the country, during which 349 people died in crashes, a jump from 314 in 2010, the study found.
"This alarming shift is a stark reminder that states must continue to pass and enforce strong comprehensive highway safety laws," Jacqueline Gillan, the group's President, said in a statement.
The 2014 report, released this week, includes a rating of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and gives the organizations highest "green" rating to 10 states, including Rhode Island, which recently passed a primary enforcement seatbelt law, according to the safety group. Massachusetts is one of 29 sites to earn the second-highest "yellow" rating. And 11 states, including New Hampshire, earned poor ratings from the group.
AAA Southern New England's Mary Maquire, who also serves as Chair of the Massachusetts Primary Seat Belt Coalition "Belts Ensure a Safer Tomorrow" (BEST), is endorsing the move, saying the primary bill could help save lives and help prevent lifelong injuries.
"If we were to pass Senate Bill 1115 here in the Commonwealth, we could save 18 lives every year in Massachusetts, and prevent more than 650 injuries, many of those paralyzing spinal and traumatic brain injuries, injuries that last a lifetime," Maguire said in a statement.