Bill would allow police to stop drivers for seatbelt violation | NevadaAppeal.com

Bill would allow police to stop drivers for seatbelt violation

Nevada Appeal Capitol Bureau

Legislation that would allow police to stop any driver they believe isn’t wearing a seat belt was introduced Tuesday in the Nevada Senate.

SB116 is a new version of the proposal that has been killed in several previous sessions despite strong support from police agencies.

Existing law prohibits police from stopping a driver suspected of not wearing a seat belt. Although belts are required in Nevada, drivers can only be ticketed if they were lawfully stopped for another reason and are found to be unbelted.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, said he introduced the legislation because it’s a fiscal issue.

Schneider said officials at University Medical Center in Las Vegas say accident injuries are much more severe when drivers and passengers aren’t wearing seat belts and that many of the victims aren’t insured.

“People are coming in with catastrophic injuries because they’re not buckled up,” he said. “It’s costing us tens of millions.”

Two years ago, Frank Adams of the Nevada Sheriff’s and Chief’s Association testified on a similar bill, saying it is purely a safety issue.

But opponents have testified the change would amount to “open ended probable cause” that would let police stop anyone they want to. Public defenders say the change has far too much potential for abuse, including racial profiling.

The Legislature several years ago ordered a study in Clark County to determine whether the Metropolitan Police Department was guilty of racial profiling. It showed that Hispanic and African-American drivers were twice as likely to be stopped, removed from their car and handcuffed when stopped for a traffic violation.

Schneider rejected the idea police are still racially profiling, saying, “If they were profiling, Barack Obama wouldn’t be president. I don’t think it’s an issue anymore.”

SB116 was referred to the Senate Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, which Schneider chairs, for study.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.