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“Buckle Up” Bill Could Net NH $3.7 Million

February 3, 2009

Concord, NH – For years, New Hampshire legislators have said "no" to passing a law that would require adults in the state to wear seat belts. This year, however, their decision is tied to more than $3 million in federal money.

This year's adult seat belt law proposal makes its debut at a hearing today (Tuesday), sponsored by State Rep. Sally Kelly (D-Merrimack). Kelly says she used to oppose a seat belt law, but changed her mind after reviewing safety information and the results of a statewide poll showing Granite State residents favor such a law.

Kelly also likes the carrot being dangled by the federal government if the law is in place by the end of this summer.

"The $3.7 million is just the icing on the cake. It's a time when our New Hampshire economy really needs something sweet."

Steve Gratton is a racecar driver and long-time Volvo car company employee. He supports the "buckle-up" requirement because, he says, today's vehicles are designed to protect people who are wearing seat belts.

"Everything about the car -- in the construction of the car, airbag technology, the seatbelt technology -- all of that is built around the fact that the person's going to be belted."

And Concord orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gary Woods has been advocating for adult seat belt laws since the 1980s, because of his firsthand experience treating injuries related to not wearing a seat belt.

"It keeps you in your car, and it keeps you out of my hands, so that you can be home with your family."

Opponents of the proposal, HB 383, say the decision to wear a seat belt is a personal right that should not be dictated by law. Kelly says she'll argue that not buckling up interferes with other people's rights, when accidents result in lifelong injuries that require taxpayer-funded care.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - NH