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Seat Belt Fines Could Increase

A proposal to raise Missouri’s fines for seat belt violations could have a better chance in the Senate this year.Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Kehoe said Wednesday that he wants to advance the bill to the full Senate for debate. The legislation by Sen. Joe Keaveny has died each of the past three years in the transportation committee.The Democratic senator from St. Louis is proposing to increase the fine from $10 to $50 for people caught not wearing seat belts in vehicles.The percentage of people using seat belts in Missouri lags behind the national average, and Keaveny hopes a higher fine would encourage more people to buckle up.The bill drew support Wednesday from police, insurance, doctors’ and trucking groups.Highway Patrol troopers and paramedics say seat belts routinely save lives. Troopers report that deadly crashes were up in 2012 from 2011. Last year alone, more than 800 people died on Missouri roads and almost 65 percent of those killed were not strapped in with a seat belt.Cole County EMS officials receive about 20 to 30 calls every week for accidents and some of the worst accidents usually have a common thread: the driver or the passenger was not wearing a seat belt.”We’ve seen the same accidents where people have not worn seat belts and have been thrown from the vehicle and even severely injured or killed,” said paramedic Kevin Wieberg.Wieberg says some of the worst crashes are rollovers, T-bones, and head-on collisions. Those wearing seat belts normally see scratches or broken bones, but he says those not wearing a safety device usually end up with serious injuries or death.Troopers tell ABC 17 News that people have to understand that if you buckle up, the chances of surviving the worst crashes increase.”In most cases, it’s fatal because there’s no protection there once you get outside the vehicle, which is designed by car manufacturers to withstand a crash and still leave you room to survive if you stay inside that area,” said Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.Wieberg says if people took the extra seconds to simply buckle themselves in, it could save their lives.”They’d be ejected from the vehicle going through the windshield or out another window, it’s gory but it can happen,” he said. “Wearing your seat belt saves your life.”Troopers have been trying to crack down on people not wearing their seat belts. They gave out nearly 12,000 more tickets in 2012 compared to 2011.

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