The House Judiciary Committee defers a bill mandating seat belt use under certain circumstances to the 41st legislative day.
House Bill 1229 makes it a Class 2 misdemeanor if the driver or front seat passenger does not wear a seat belt. Currently, failure to wear a seat belt is a secondary violation and a $25 fine.
Maynard Konechne represents the South Dakota EMS Association and supports House Bill 1229. He says seat belt use saves lives.
"Take a quick look at major car races such as the Daytona 500. The driver would never think of crawling in that car without being buckled up. Because when he crashes at 200 plus miles per hour, he walks away with no injuries. The cars we drive nowadays for work or pleasure have what is considered a cager on the driver and the passengers. The only way this is effective is if the driver and the passengers are belted in and remain in the vehicle in the event of a crash or rollover this will reduce the risk of death by 45 percent and cut serious injuries by 50 percent, Konechne says."
Republican Senator Larry Tidemann of Brookings is another proponent. He says 81 of the 125 people who died on South Dakota roads last year were not wearing seat belts. Tidemann adds seat belt use in South Dakota is about 20 percent below the national average.
Attorney Bob Pesall opposes House Bill 1229. He says he has advocated against this kind of legislation for more than two decades. Pesall cites a recent study as one part of his testimony.
"I would initially direct the members of the committee to the more recent studies that have been done on the subject of switching from secondary to primary enforcement. And, this isn't the lawyer from Flandreau, South Dakota calling and telling you this. This is from public broadcasting, this is from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, this is a study that was released in 20-17, peer-reviewed by university professors at McGill University. If anyone wants to check my sources on this you can Google 'PBS Click-It or Ticket.' What the studies found based on 15 years of crash data, and I'm quoting this, 'there is no evidence that these laws are reducing fatalities,’” Pesall says.
Pesall says the legislation is also an example of government overreach. He also objects to the proposed Class 2 misdemeanor charge for non-compliance, calling it "incredibly inappropriate."
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, a motion to pass the bill through committee failed by one vote. House Judiciary members then agreed to table the bill on an 8-5 vote.