Bad Bill Bob's Commentary on HB49
In the last many sessions similar bill have been introduced;
1999 - HB329
2001 - SB64
2003 - SB 116
2005 - SB 43
2007 - SB 300
2009 - SB237
And here it is again - and this one a new effort to phase in a primary seat belt law. It promotes
law enforcement to issue warning tickets. And if they catch you again, then you have to
go to a class to be educated as to the benefit of seat belts - a specific duty of the
Drivers Ed courses. Certainly a new twist.
And what makes this bill even more interesting is that the title makes ZERO mention
of the fact that it is a primary seatbelt bill. Citizens have no idea that the 'safety
pilot program' is really a new version of bills that have been introduced over many
If passed this bill will require all drivers of vehicles to wear seatbelts,
or else they will be pulled over. In some states with seat belt laws, tickets can exceed $200.
This is called the primary seatbelt law. Only 28 states have such a law. The big push by the
federal government (Transportation Department) began with an order from President
Clinton to request all states to pass primary seatbelt legislation.
In a previous session, 28 associations testified in favor of it. While a handful of private
citizens opposed it. It ultimately failed in committee.
There is no doubt that seatbelts can save lives in some accidents. But the issue here is
personal responsibility. It has never been the role of government to issue citations to
citizens for doing things that government does not agree with.
To sum up this issue, citizen testimony from previous hearings have stated it best:
"We oppose laws that would change Montana's seatbelt law from a secondary offense to
a primary offense. Montana drivers should be punished for driving in a reckless
manner, and not because the driver was driving in a safe manner, without
wearing a seatbelt"