Some safety experts think so.
At present, Nebraska has laws requiring seat belts be used and cell phones not be used while driving. They are secondary laws, though, enforced only if the driver violates another law.
Rose White of Triple-A Nebraska says drivers simply don’t take secondary laws seriously.
“We know that most people want to obey a primary law. If we look at Iowa, they do have a primary safety belt law, seat belt usage there is at about 93% compared to in Nebraska, with our secondary law, usage is at 79%,” White tells reporters during a Capitol news conference.
Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff, who has been working to tighten traffic laws during his eight years in the Unicameral, sponsors the Nebraska Roadway Safety Act. It would make the state seat belt law primary as well as the law against texting while driving.
In addition, the act would make violations of the Graduated Driver Licensing law for young drivers primary.
Troopers, police officers, and sheriff’s deputies could pull a driver over simply for not wearing his seat belt or for texting while behind the wheel, and even for that teen-ager not abiding by the rules of the road if the laws are made primary. They wouldn’t have to observe another offense first, as they do now.
Laurie Klosterboer with the Nebraska Safety Council argues it should only take using a simple fact to persuade lawmakers to upgrade the laws.
“Due to what we’re seeing on our roads, the number of injuries, the fatalities that we’re seeing.”
AAA Nebraska reports more than 1,400 people unbuckled in their cars died in traffic accidents in Nebraska over the past 10 years. Many were ejected from the car. It estimates just making the seat belt law primary would increase seat belt usage by 15%, saving as many as 60 lives a year.
Nebraska is one of only 17 states without a primary safety belt law.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]