New Hampshire Seatbelt Law Passes the House

New Hampshire is the only state in the union that does not have an adult seatbelt law. However, all that might change. The state House passed a mandatory seatbelt law by 42 votes.

This is an increase from the last time the law was proposed. In 2007 the measure passed the House by only 13 votes. Why have so many changed their tune and decided that New Hampshire should adopt an adult seatbelt law?

The bills sponsor, Rep. Sally Kelly, actually voted against the law in 2007. After serving on a commission that looked at how to increase seatbelt use, Kelly decided that the measure would benefit New Hampshire residents.

Of her change of opinion Kelly said, "It had been based on emotions. I changed it to one based on facts."

To back up her claims Kelly cited statistics that show that seatbelt use in New Hampshire is behind the national average. In New Hampshire only 63.5 percent consistently wear their seatbelts while the national average is 81 percent.

The House also heard from Rep. Richard Komi. Komi told the story of his cousin who was "struck right out of the windshield" during an accident. Komi pointed out that, "...this cousin of mine did not have any health insurance at the time. None of us had the money to pay for his hospital bill. And guess where the bill was sent? To the state."

Komi and others argue that if the law is passed the savings to the state and taxpayers would be significant. In addition, if the law is passed, New Hampshire will receive $3.7 million in federal money. Proponents also argue that insurance premiums will go down and that the law will save lives.

However, the bill faces tough opposition from many lawmakers. Rep. Jennifer Coffey argued that the seatbelt law may be the beginning of the end of civil liberties in New Hampshire and that the federal money is not a reason to pass the law.

"Many die from liver failure, so I suggest we will have to bring back Prohibition," said Coffey. She also suggested, "human weight check stations at the borders, preventing people from entering our state if they are obese."

Coffey is not alone in her distrust of the bill. Rep. Joel Winters of Nashua believes that seatbelts are a choice and that mandating them comes with hidden costs to civil liberties and freedom.

"That is not something I want to see in New Hampshire," Winters said.

Even though the response to the bill was favorable in the House, it still must pass the Senate and be signed into law by the governor. Governor Lynch did not state his opinion in 2007 and the measure lost in the House by a 16-8 vote.

Only time will tell if skeptical lawmakers will stop the measure in the Senate or if New Hampshire will be the final state in the union to mandate adult seatbelt use.

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