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The state of Nebraska is currently considering several measures that are meant to improve traffic safety, in part, by making certain secondary offenses into primary ones.
Specifically, the state legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee will hear three measures:
- Senator John Harms has proposed a bill that would allow police to stop any motorist who is not wearing a seat belt. At present, Nebraska is one of only 18 states where lack of a safety belt is only a secondary offense, which means motorists can only be cited for violations if they’re stopped for another reason. In addition to making lack of a seat belt a primary offense, this bill would increase the current $25 fine for such an infraction to $100, and add a point to the driver’s record, which could lead to insurance rate increases. The fine would apply to all drivers and their passengers.
- Senator Bob Krist has introduced further safety belt law, requiring that all passengers wear seat belts, and making the lack of one a primary offense, even for back-seat passengers. This means that police could pull over a car if a child in the back seat wasn’t correctly buckled in.
- The third bill in question, also sponsored by Senator Harms, would make texting while driving a primary offense (it’s currently a secondary infraction), though some people object on the grounds it might lead to pulling over too many young people and/or minorities. As well, police officers have argued that even as a secondary offense texting behind the wheel is difficult to enforce.
All three proposals were inspired by the fact that there were 211 traffic deaths in Nebraska last year, as opposed to only 181 in 2011. Last year was also the first year that number had increased in several years.
So far in 2013, there have been 29 traffic deaths in Nebraska.