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Independence, Money, and Safety – NH Seat Belt Bill Hearing Today

March 9, 2009

Concord, NH – It’s been called one of the Granite State’s biggest controversies at the Capitol – whether or not the state should have a law requiring adults to wear a seat belt. The House Ways and Means Committee takes up the issue today (Monday). Comments from the prime sponsor of the seat belt bill, State Representative Sally Kelly (D-Chichester).

Fierce independence, money and safety are all intertwined in New Hampshire around a proposal to require adults to wear seat belts. The controversial issue is being taken up by the state House Ways and Means Committee today. The prime sponsor of the bill is Rep. Sally Kelly(D-Chichester), who voted against a similar bill two years ago. She has been busy this session explaining why she changed her mind.

It happened when she served on the state committee looking into an adult seat belt law. She learned about car and truck safety design and how it all depends on a person wearing a seat belt.

"We have computer systems, we have air bags. Everything is designed to keep you aligned with that steering wheel. When you don't have that seatbelt on, you get thrown around."

Opponents say the proposal, HB 383, doesn't fit with the state's motto, "Live Free or Die." Others are offended that the federal government is dangling almost $4 million in front of the state to pass the law, calling it a "bribe" to trample personal freedom.

Today's committee hearing will focus on the federal money available if the state puts an adult seat belt law in place, as well as the costs of not having a law. Kelly says those costs are related to higher insurance premiums, lost wages, and even taxes paid to cover traffic-crash victims' care – which can be life-long.

"I've been looking through the statistics and the numbers. For every percent we increase of usage, we're going to save $4 million in medical bills alone."

Kelly says she is also promoting the bill because almost 65 percent of state residents want the law, and she is representing their wishes.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - NH