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Seat Belt Law Takes Front Seat for State Rep Kelly

January 25, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. - Buckling up in the Granite State has become personal for State Rep. Sally Kelly (Merrimack County, Dist. 7). She survived a serious car accident in October of last year - from which she is still recovering - but considers herself very lucky.

Kelly was hit head-on by a van that crossed over two lanes before smashing into her tiny vehicle. She suffered multiple injuries and spent three weeks in a hospital, but Kelly says she fared better than the other driver.

"He ended up getting airlifted to Dartmouth Hitchcock, where he spent two months - most of it in intensive care. He chose not to wear a seatbelt. I am alive today because I had that seat belt on."

New Hampshire is currently the only state in the United States without a seat belt law for adults. For many opponents of such a law, it is a matter of personal freedom.

Kelly, too, was not always an advocate. But now she works with a seat-belt coalition, explaining to those opposed to implementing a law for adults that this is - above all else - both a safety issue and a cost issue.

"The person who hit me, by his own choice, had neither automobile nor health insurance, nor did he wear his seatbelt. Unfortunately, due to his very extensive injuries, all of us New Hampshire citizens - through no choice of our own - are ultimately paying for his medical care."

Last year, the New Hampshire house voted in favor of a bill to require seat belts for adults; however, the state senate was two votes shy of passing the bill. The seat belt legislation remains "on the table," which means it could be re-introduced later this year if the senate chooses to do so.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH