St. Louis Public Radio News
4:19 am
Wed February 4, 2009

Former opponent of tougher seat belt bill now sponsors it

Jefferson City, MO – Supporters of attempts to upgrade Missouri's seat belt law to primary enforcement say they may meet with more success this year.

Under current law, motorists can only be ticketed for not buckling up if they're pulled over for some other offense.

State Representative Bill Deeken (R, Jefferson City), a long-time opponent of primary enforcement, is now sponsoring it.

"We had an accident in our family that if it wouldn't have been for seat belts, I could have lost four people...I was like everybody else at first...I thought, 'I don't want the government telling me what to do,' but after that I started saying, 'Wow...(I) came that close to losing four members of my family,'" Deeken said.

MoDOT Director Pete Rahn says allowing law officers to pull over motorists solely for not being buckled up could save more than 350 lives over a four-year span.

But State Representative and former State Trooper Gary Dusenberg (R, Blue Springs) opposes it.

He cites personal freedom and the possibility that a primary enforcement law could be used for racial profiling.

"I think that is a possibility...most officers are good people and would not use that, but there's always that one exception where that could be the case, you know," Dusenberg said.