2019 Session - MONTANA 

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"