Primary Seat Belt Law

In January 2006 Alaska became the 23rd state to enact and pass a primary seat belt law.  May 1st, the effective date of the law, marked the first day of enforcement statewide.  Law enforcement officers in Anchorage and across the state are committed to ensuring motorists comply with the law, thereby reducing injuries and deaths on Alaskan roadways.

So what exactly is a PRIMARY seat belt law?  And how does it differ from the seat belt law previous to this one? 

Alaska has had a mandatory seat belt law since 1989.  For any occupant in a motor vehicle over the age of 16, the law was a ‘secondary’ violation.  Motorists could not be stopped unless an officer observed a different violation first.  Once stopped, however, the seat belt violation could be ticketed.   If an officer observed any occupants under 16 years of age not wearing seat belts it was a primary stop.

In essence, the only change to the law is the change from a secondary to a primary violation.  Officers can now stop a vehicle and issue a citation for a seat belt violation even if it was the only violation observed.  Remember – seat belts have been required for all motor vehicle occupants since 1989 – that’s 17 years!

What can you expect now?  Law enforcement officers will conduct a coordinated, statewide effort to boost compliance with the seat belt law.  Officers will be fair, consistent and compassionate when enforcing the law.  The goal is to change behavior and save lives. 

Every year in Alaska too many people lose their lives in motor vehicle collisions because they weren’t wearing seat belts.   In Anchorage these numbers are staggering.   In 2004, 30 people died in motor vehicle collisions – 11 of them were seat belt related.  Last year, 15 people were killed in crashes - 6 due to a lack of seat belts. 

Alaska trails the national average for seat belt use.  Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 3 – 33.   As the largest state, we should be an example and lead the national average by encouraging seat belt use, thereby saving lives and the high cost all of us pay for these collisions. 

It’s not a hard choice – Click It or Ticket - seat belts do save lives.

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