Push on to require seat belts for all in vehicles
All vehicle occupants, including adults in the rear seats, would be required to wear selt belts under a bill that received a hearing today before a House of Delegates committee.
If the measure passes, Maryland would join 35 other states that issue tickets if any passenger in a vehicle is found to be unbelted, advocates said. Maryland now requires rear seat belts only for riders under 16 years old.
Maryland currently requires front seat occupants to wear seat belts, but advocates for the bill testified that rear seat passengers also faced elevated risks if they aren't wearing restraints when a vehicle is in a collision.
The legislation, sponsored by Del. C. T. Wilson, a Charles County Democrat and Sam Arora, a Montgomery County Democrat, received a boost Tuesday with the testimony of Montgomery County Police Capt. Tom Didione, who told members of the House Environmental Matters Committee about the 2008 crash in which his teenage son -- a passenger in the rear seat of a vehicle -- was killed after being thrown to the front of the vehicle and hitting the dashboard.
Other advocates told the committee that the average seat belt use in states with mandatory rear seat usage laws is 78 percent compared with 64 percent in states where it is not required. No opponents signed up to testify.
Like the existing law, the bill would put the burden on the driver to see that passengers comply with seat belt requirements. But the current bill would also allow an officer to ticket noncompliant passengers. The fine for violations is $25.
Advocates estimated that 30 fewer people would be killed and 750 fewer injured if all Maryland drivers and passengers wore seat belts.