Buckle up for more nannyism

State senators from both parties were unsuccessful this week in attempting to halt legislation that would allow police to stop vehicles if they believe the occupants aren’t wearing seat belts.

We hope members of the House, including Mesa County Reps. Steve King and Laura Bradford, can find enough votes to kill Senate Bill 296 and this latest version of state government nannyism.

Current Colorado law requires motorists to wear seat belts, but failing to do so is not a primary offense. That means police can ticket people for not wearing seat belts so long as the vehicle was stopped for another reason. But cops can’t stop cars just because they believe seat belts aren’t in use.

SB 296 would reverse that, making failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense. It is being pushed for two ostensible reasons: safety and money.

There is no question seat belts save lives, and encouraging people to use them is reasonable enough. But other potential problems could occur if Colorado makes not wearing seat belts a primary offense.

“Why would we open the door to random police stops in Colorado?” asked state Sen. Morgan Carroll, an Aurora Democrat, who has opposed such laws for years.

She and others fear not only that unscrupulous police officers could use the law to pull over anyone they wish, but some might use it specifically for racial profiling, and that’s a potent argument against the bill.

So is the concern by Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry of Grand Junction that the bill amounts to more evidence of ever-expanding state government nannyism.

We agree wholeheartedly. In addition to this bill, the Legislature this year is contemplating new laws to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, and even to dictate what type of grocery sack you may use. That’s taking government intrusion into our lives too far, we believe, and SB 296 is just another example of that.

The money issue involves the threat that the federal government could withhold $12 million in highway revenue if the state doesn’t comply with its demand that such legislation be passed.

Certainly, $12 million is nothing to sneeze at when the state is struggling with massive budget cuts and in trying to find adequate funding for highways. Even so, Colorado lawmakers should decide what sort of legislation is appropriate for this state, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

Here’s hoping the House can kill SB 296.


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