Published March 31, 2023

Seat Belt Primary Bill Passes House 

Written by
Lydia Hoverson
| The Dakotan
The North Dakota State House voted Thursday to allow officers to pull someone over due to lack of seatbelt usage. (Photo: Lydia Hoverson/The Dakotan
The North Dakota State House voted Thursday to allow officers to pull someone over due to lack of seatbelt usage. (Photo: Lydia Hoverson/The Dakotan

Arguments for Safety and Personal Responsibility  


BISMARCK – The North Dakota State House passed a bill Thursday that would give law enforcement the ability to pull someone over for the reason of not wearing a seatbelt. 

Senate Bill 2362 seeks to change the violation of not wearing a seatbelt from a secondary to primary offense. Currently officers may pull someone over if a minor in the vehicle is not wearing a seatbelt. This bill allows a vehicle to be pulled over due to any adult in the front seat not wearing a seatbelt.  

The fine for the offense would be $20. Also, currently officers may give an adult in the front seat that same fine if the officer pulled him or her over for a different reason. 

The bill received a 9-5 Do Not Pass recommendation from the House Transportation committee.  

“Driving is a privilege, not a right,” said Rep. Mike Lefor, R-Dis. 37, Dickinson. “At the end of the day, if you’re not wearing a seatbelt and you fly through the windshield and you kill somebody else, that’s their safety. The plan in this bill was developed by more than 200 safety stakeholders throughout the state in 2018.” 

Lefor said lack of seatbelt usage is the number one reason for fatalities in vehicle crashes and a person is 25 times more likely to die if he or she is thrown from a vehicle in a crash. 

“This bill will increase seatbelt usage among our citizens,” said Lefor. “Research shows that states that have transitioned to a primary seatbelt law have experienced a 10% to 12% increase in the observed usage.” 

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Dis. 38, Minot, said about 80% of drivers and passengers currently wear their seatbelts. 

“Do you think that’s going to go up just because we make this a primary offense?” said Ruby. “We heard in committee that 4,600 tickets were written last year.” 

Ruby said he asked a law enforcement officer last session if there was any shortage of reasons to pull someone over. 

“He said no, we can always find a reason to pull somebody over,” said Ruby. “I don’t know that this is going to make a difference in that area. There are motorcycles out on the roads. There’s no seatbelts there. Every spring we hear of fatalities on motorcycles. No way to protect that or stop that other than to keep working on safety with driving motorcycles.” 

“My good friend in 2015 lost his two boys, 17 and 13, in a pickup crash,” said Rep. Austen Schauer, R-Dis. 13, West Fargo. “His youngest son did not have a seatbelt on and was thrown 75 feet. It’s been heartbreaking. The idea that we’re talking statistics in my opinion is offensive. The previous speaker talking about statistics being human beings and human beings connected to families is powerful, and that needs to come first.” 

“I don’t disagree with the previous speakers that seatbelts do save lives,” said Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Dis. 18, Grand Forks. “Seatbelts save lives. Primary seatbelt laws do not. Since 2004 the number of road traffic injuries and fatalities in the U.S. have been constant. If we really want zero deaths, then we should all wear helmets and drive 45 miles an hour.” 

Vetter said Minnesota’s fatality crashes have been rising in the last few years with a primary seatbelt law and North Dakota’s rate has remained stable.  

“Is this a conservative Republican idea or is this a nanny state idea?” said Vetter. “Personal responsibility and less government intrusion or we know better than you government intrusion?” 

The bill passed by a vote of 53 to 38 and will be sent to the governor for consideration. 

Stay connected to the latest news
Subscription Form (#3)

About the Author

Trending Now
The Dakotan Newsletter
Subscribe to get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox
Newsletter Form (#4)
© AndMuse, LLC 2024 Login Email
LIVE: 2022 Minot Mayoral Forum
Click to Watch Live
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram