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Seat belt bill headed for crash


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2000

Children's advocates, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Florida Highway Patrol have tried for years to persuade lawmakers to toughen Florida's seat belt laws.

It appears they will have to keep trying.

A proposal that would allow drivers to be pulled over and fined for not wearing a seat belt won't be heard by a Senate committee. The decision, by Transportation Committee Chairman Daniel Webster, R-Orlando, means the idea probably is dead for another year.

It's against Florida law to ride without a seat belt in the front seat of a car or truck. But only when stopped for another offense, such as speeding, can a driver or passenger be cited. The penalty is $30, plus court costs.

Opponents worry that the measure would give police a license to harass drivers, particularly African-Americans.

Webster said Thursday that the bill, sponsored by Sen. John Grant, R-Tampa, would consume too much time in his committee.

Plus, he said, "This is a pretty libertarian committee."

Gov. Jeb Bush has said he would sign the measure if both chambers approve.

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