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To Buckle or Not To Buckle: That is Still the Question in NH

April 8, 2009

Concord, NH - To buckle up, or not to buckle up. That is the question in New Hampshire today, as the state House votes on a bill that would require adults to wear automobile seat belts.

The state's seat belt law of 2000 that required those under 18 to be restrained in vehicles is being cited as a reason adults should be under the same law. The Injury Prevention Center at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center finds there has been a 63 percent drop in fatalities for those 13 to 17 since the teen seat belt law went on the books.

Kassy Helie, a nurse at Newport Middle High School, says the state's reluctance to pass a law for everyone is something she takes personally.

"I had a brother who died 22 years ago in a car accident, and if he had had the seat belt on, the police think he would have been saved. He did not. He got thrown out of the vehicle."

Years later, Helie's own life was saved by wearing a seat belt, and she says sometimes it takes personal experiences for people to recognize the value of the potential law.

Helie says public policy that protects the lives of young people has value for adults, too.

"How many children are now parentless, or grandparentless, or brother and sisterless because you get to be 18 and the state says it's okay to take your seatbelt off, so people choose just to do that. This is a life-saving measure."

The bill has vocal opponents who say that the law would be an assault on civil liberties. That attitude has blocked an adult seat-belt law as recently as 2007, leaving New Hampshire in its position as the only state without such a law.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH