New seat belt and child restraint laws to go in effect July 1

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff
jlassiter@starhq.com

  The state of Tennessee will implement two laws regarding occupant restraints on July 1, beginning one of the most heavily traveled holidays of the year, Forth of July weekend. The new laws will require motorists to buckle-up, and follow more stringent child restraint laws or face a primary offense.
  The new law will allow police officers to stop and ticket motorists who aren't wearing their seat belts. Currently, motorists can only be ticketed for not wearing their seat belt if they are pulled over for another traffic violation.
  Sheriff John Henson commented on the new law and how it will effect Carter County citizens. Henson said, "In my opinion, the new law will be good for the simple reason it will save more lives."
  According to a Governor's Highway Safety Office report, the new laws are designed to save lives and reduce the economic impact resulting from traffic crashes on Tennessee highways.
  Motor vehicle-related injuries kill more people each year than any other type of injury in the Unites States, according to the report. Using safety belts is the single most effective means of reducing fatal and nonfatal injuries in motor vehicle crashes. The Centers for Disease Control indicates a 14 percent greater decrease in motor vehicle fatalities in states with primary safety belt laws than in states with secondary laws.
  The National Highway Trasportation Safety Administration estimates that the state will save 81 lives, prevent 886 serious injuries, and save $181 million in related costs each year. Currently, a quarter of Tennesseans are not buckling up.
  Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicley said, "Tennessee is proud to now be among the existing 20 states and District of Columbia to have a primary seat belt law. TDOT's emphasis on safety goes far beyond the conditions of our roadways; it extends to the safety of the vehicle operator. We are encouraged that these laws will facilitate a significant decrease in motor vehicle-related injuries and promote the need to use safety belts."
  The implementation of two new occupant protection laws provides an increased opportunity for the importance of safety to be communicated to motorists, according to Chuck Taylor, director of the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office. "Our efforts in modifying driver behavior is greatly enhanced by these two new life-saving pieces of legislation."
  Beginning July 1, in Tennessee:
  *Law enforcement officers can ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt.
  *All motor vehicle passengers must use a seat belt or the driver can be ticketed.
  *Children under the age of one or weighing 20 pounds or less when in a motor vehicle must be in the rear seat (if available, or, according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer's instructions) of the vehicle in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system.
  *Children ages one through three and weighing greater than 20 pounds when in a motor vehicle must be in the rear seat (if available, or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle manufacturer's instructions) of the vehicle in a forward facing child passenger restraint system.
  *Children ages four through eight and measuring less than five feet tall when in a passenger motor vehicle must be in the rear seat (if available, or according to the child restraint system or vehicle manufacturer's instruction) using a belt positioning system (booster seat).
  *Children ages nine through 12 and measuring five feet tall or more when in a passenger motor vehicle must use a seat belt system. It is recommended that the child be placed in the rear seat.