HB 90, sponsored by Rep. Neal St. Onge (R-Ellisville) and SB 17, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph, would require most drivers and passengers in cars or trucks to wear a seatbelt. The Senate version, which is still in committee, also seeks to repeal the state safety inspection program.
Exemptions for wearing a seatbelt considered in the House bill, which left the committee with a do-pass vote of 8-2, included U.S. Postal Service employees while performing their duties, persons operating or riding a motor vehicle being used in agricultural work-related activities, and persons with a medical reason documented by a physician. Currently, each driver and front-seat passenger of passenger cars and trucks with a licensed gross weight under 12,000 pounds must wear a seatbelt, and a person cannot be stopped solely for a seatbelt violation.
“It’s estimated that a mandatory seatbelt law will save 90 lives per year,” said Gary Marble, president of AIM. “Anything that has such a positive impact on the residents of Missouri will have an equally positive impact on business.”
Motor vehicle accidents, on and off the job, are the primary cause of death and injury in the nation’s workforce. According to the Network for Employer’s Safety (NETS), regardless of when, where or why an employee is behind the wheel, when an auto injury occurs there can be a devastating impact on the workplace.
In Missouri, crashes cost employers more than $800 million annually, and about $310 per employee. Injuries due to motor vehicle accidents cost employers with added medical expenses, legal expenses, property damage and lost employee productivity.
In addition, passage of a mandatory seatbelt law would qualify Missouri for $16 million in federal funds. The 2005 federal highway bill gives any state that adopts tougher seatbelt rules a one-time payment of 500 percent of the highway funding received in 2003.
In the U.S. in 24 states drivers can be pulled over for not wearing seatbelts; drivers in 25 states are subject to the same rules as Missouri. Only New Hampshire has no mandatory seatbelt rule.