Senate passes seat belt law but not unanimously |

Senate passes seat belt law but not unanimously

Legislation to allow police to stop any driver they believe isn’t belted up passed the Nevada Senate on Tuesday.

While there was no debate over SB116, the vote was far from unanimous. A bipartisan group of nine senators opposed making failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense. Under current law, it is a secondary offense, which means a driver can only be ticketed for not wearing a belt if he or she was already stopped for another violation .

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, introduced the measure, saying medical officials at University Medical Center in Las Vegas have told him accident injuries are much more severe and expensive when drivers and passengers aren’t wearing seat belts.

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

Opponents, however, have testified the change would give police “open ended probable cause” to stop anyone they want. Public defenders and the ACLU say the proposal has far too much potential for abuse.

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

Schneider rejected that police are still racially programming.

“If they were profiling, Barack Obama wouldn’t be president. I don’t think it’s an issue any more,” he said when he introduced the bill.

The vote was 12-9 with Republicans Mark Amodei, Barbara Cegavske, Bill Raggio, Mike McGinness and Maurice Washington along with Democrats Terry Care, Maggie Carlton, Bernice Mathews and Majority Leader Steven Horsford opposed.

It goes to the Assembly.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.