Officials believe hundreds of lives will be saved as a result of House Enrolled Act 1237
STATEHOUSE – After more than five years of trying, traffic safety advocates have finally closed one of the last seatbelt loopholes in the nation. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed House Enrolled Act 1237, a law that requires every Indiana motorist – including those driving pickup trucks – to wear seatbelts. With pen in hand, Daniels thanked legislators and advocates for their continued persistence on the bill. “You persevered,” Daniels said. “You never gave up. In the end, we not only want this law on the books, but we want everyone to abide by it.”
The new law takes effect July 1.
Sen. Tom Wyss (R-Fort Wayne) teamed with State Rep. Peggy Welch (D-Bloomington) to pass the legislation. Wyss said the new law could save anywhere from 50 to 75 people per year. “And a lot of those fatalities have been young people between the ages of 16 and 20,” Wyss said.
Donald McNamara, regional administrator for the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, applauded the action and said this would keep statistics on a downward cycle.
“In 1979, we had 1,299 fatalities,” McNamara said the ceremony. “In 2006, that had dropped to 806, a decrease of 39 percent. We believe seat belt usage had a lot to do with it.”
Wyss praised Welch for getting the bill started on the road to success in the House of Representatives. “The teamwork with Rep. Welch has been phenomenal,” Wyss said.
“There are very few bills we act upon that involve life and death situations,” Welch said. “We know lives are going to be saved with this legislation. We know there are families out there who will be spared the grief of losing a loved one.”
According to Wyss, more than half of Hoosiers who drive pickup trucks currently do not use seatbelts. That compares with a usage rate of over 80 percent in cars. Wyss also said 267 people have been killed in pickups on Indiana roads over the past two years. Nearly 70 percent of the victims were unrestrained at the time of the crash, and 35 percent of those were ejected from their vehicles.
While the focus has been on saving lives, this action also benefits Indiana in another respect. By implementing a law requiring all motorists to buckle up, the state will open the doors to a $15.8 million one-time grant from the federal government. Georgia is now the only state that allows occupants of vehicles with truck plates to remain unrestrained.
After signing the measure, the governor had high praise for Wyss’ leadership.
“Tom Wyss has been a tireless advocate for traffic safety,” Daniels. “We are grateful to him for his efforts.”
Sen. Tom Wyss is from Fort Wayne and represents District 15. He is chairman of the Homeland Security, Transportation and Veteran Affairs Committee in the Indiana Senate.