Tightening State’s Seat Belt Law

There’s a bill making its way through the state Legislature that would require everyone in a car – no matter how old or where they’re sitting – to wear a seat belt. Currently, only front-seat occupants, as well as back-seat passengers under age 18, are required to buckle up.

SB4, the bill revising the law, has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee, but no hearing has been scheduled yet. Honolulu Police Department’s Traffic Division is on record as definitely supporting the bill. And while they didn’t say why, it’s assumed the bill is expected to save lives in horrific traffic accidents.

If you get a ticket for not wearing your seat belt, you have to pay a $92 fine. I imagine once HPD personnel figure out how to detect passengers in the backseat not wearing their seat belts, this could be a financial bonanza for the department. A vehicle with two passengers in front and three in back, all without their seat belts on, could be quite a catch for HPD.

This is going to call for some creative strategy on the part of HPD. Over the years, it has come up with some clever maneuvers to catch motorists breaking the law. Radar guns have probably been the most productive fundraising weapon for HPD. An officer armed with a radar gun hiding in the shade of an overpass is my personal favorite. They are almost invisible.

Another tactic occurs at construction sites around town, when detours are set up and officers are on hand to redirect traffic. Traffic has to slow down, giving police ample time to check for proper seat belt compliance.

But, in the final analysis, if the new law saves just one life, it’s a good bill.

It makes you wonder how long it’s going to take legislators to come up with mandatory helmets for people of all ages riding bicycles, skateboards, scooters and motorcycles. And what about seat belts for people who ride in the beds of pickup trucks? Pets also included. Of course, the Legislature could make enforcement practices easier for police by having all seat belts in automobiles a bright yellow, making unbuckled belts easier to spot.

Too bad we expect the HPD to enforce all these lifesaving, common-sense measures. But, after all, we also expect them to ticket motorists who litter the highways, so why not everything else?