Motorists in the city limits of Springfield can now be pulled over for not wearing their seat belts. This week, Springfield City Council approved a bill that allows for primary enforcement of seat belt violations. Prior to this, a person would have to be pulled over for another violation before a citation for not wearing a seat belt could be issued.
Council member, Kristi Fulnecky, opposed the bill and said it’s unnecessary.
"We already have a law on wearing your seat belt, and I would say probably most people think you're supposed to wear your seat belt whether it's a primary or secondary, so I don't think people understand that," she said, "and then also because it's a city and not a county or state I think there's some confusion as we add more and more regulations."
But Council member Craig Hosmer touted the effectiveness of seat belts in saving lives and urged council to vote yes on the bill.
"The state of Missouri has 500 traffic ordinances and regulations. 500," he said. "The only one that's not primary enforcement is the seat belt law. That makes absolutely no sense."
Councilman Mike Schilling said he's heard from constituents who are afraid officers might use the law "as a kind of profiling mechanism." Hosmer responded by providing data from the Missouri Department of Transportation that showed that when St. Louis County enacted primary enforcement of seat belt violations, the number of minority stops went down in that county.
Council member, Craig Fishel, made a motion to table the bill until the June 4, 2018 meeting to see if the state passes a primary seat belt law, but that motion failed.
Council member, Richard Ollis, struggled with whether or not to support the bill. He said city council gets mired in a lot of issues that aren’t necessarily a priority for the community. But he decided to reluctantly support it because Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams and Hosmer have promoted it.
In the end, the only person who voted against the primary seat belt ordinance was Fulnecky.