Buckle Up! Statehouse Battle Brewing Over Mandatory Seat Belt Use
Several New Hampshire lawmakers want the Granite State to finally join the rest of the country and make seat belt use mandatory.
The House Transportation Committee discussed HB 1259 last week, which would require restraints be used by every driver and passenger in a motor vehicle regardless of age.
Currently, seat belts are mandatory for passengers and drivers under the age of 18.
Rep. Mary Jane Mulligan, D-Hanover, sponsored the bill, even though state legislators have repeatedly rejected the notion every time a new bill has been introduced. At a public hearing in front of the Transportation Committee last week, opponents argued the bill impedes on their personal freedoms and is counter to New Hampshire's motto "Live Free or Die."
One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Tim Horrigan, D-Durham, said that's a misinterpretation of the motto and the more appropriate slogan, in the case of seat belt use, should be "Live Free and Die."
If the seat belt proposal makes it out of committee, the bill may not have enough bi-partisan support to pass the full legislature, and its fate would certainly be stalled once it made it to Gov. Chris Sununu's desk, who told WTSN's Mike Pomp last week he's not sure the bill would do anything to address motor vehicle fatalities.
"The vast majority of auto accidents are because of distracted driving, and I completely support strengthening those laws," Sununu said. "It's easy to say that's going to fix everything, but we already have a very high rate of voluntary seat belt usage in the state."
There are signs the bill may not have enough support even from Democrats. Rep. Jackie Cilley, D-Barrington, told WTSN News she's voted against every seat belt and helmet proposal during her time in the House and Senate.
"I'm very sensitive to our New Hampshire culture towards that (mandatory seat belt laws) and the balance between personal freedoms and personal choices," she said Thursday morning on the WTSN Morning Information Center.
Material from The Associated Press contributed to this story. Dave Andreesen is the host of "The Noon News Hour," weekdays at 12 p.m. on News Talk 98.1 WTSN.