By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
On June 10, the State of Kansas passed a new seatbelt law allowing law enforcement officers to stop drivers and front seat passengers simply due to a lack of wearing a seatbelt. During Tuesday evening’s regular city commission meeting, Liberal’s seatbelt law was amended.
Until Tuesday evening, Liberal’s standard traffic ordinance regarding seatbelt usage did not allow officers to stop those not wearing their seatbelts.
“The STO that is currently in effect in the City of Liberal still prohibits a law enforcement officer from stopping a driver for not wearing a seatbelt in the absence of another violation of the law,” a memo from City Attorney Shirla McQueen read. “Thus, in order for the Liberal Police Department to issue citations and notices to appear in the Liberal Municipal Court, it is necessary for the Liberal City Commission to repeal the existing seatbelt ordinance and adopt a new ordinance that is consistent with the new Kansas law.”
McQueen added that it was necessary to amend the law at the present time rather than wait until the fall when the LPD files STOs with the city commission for approval.
The new ordinance now in effect covers all ages of passengers that would possibly be travelling in a motor vehicle.
“Each occupant of a passenger car manufactured with safely belts in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety belts in compliance with federal motor vehicle standard No. 208 who is 18 years of age or older, shall have a safety belt properly fastened about such person’s body at all times the passenger car is in motion. Each occupant of a passenger car manufactured with safety belts in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standard No. 208 who is at least 14 years of age but less than 18 years of age, shall have a safety belt properly fastened about such person’s body at all times when the passenger car is in motion.”
Liberal police officers will now be stopping all front seat passengers who are clearly not wearing seatbelts. However, back seat passengers not wearing seatbelts will not cause a stop, but, such passengers can be cited for a lack of wearing seatbelts when a police officer stops the car for any other violation.
The ordinance is very clear as to who is affected by the new ordinance. It also is very clear as to who is exempt from this ordinance. In the following cases, a seatbelt is not required:
o An occupant of a passenger car who possesses a written statement from a licensed physician that such person is unable for medical reasons to wear a safety belt system;
o Carriers of United States mail while actually engaged in delivery and collection of mail along their specified routes;
o Newspaper delivery persons while actually engaged in delivery of newspapers along their specified routes; and
o An occupant of a passenger car required to be protected by a safety restraining system under the child passenger safety act.
When cited for not wearing a seatbelt, McQueen noted in the ordinance that persons 18 years or older not putting seatbelts to use will be fined $5 plus court costs. Persons at least 14 years old but not exceeding 18 years of age will be fined $60 including court costs.
The amended STO was unanimously passed by the four commissioners present at Tuesday’s meeting, commissioner Bob Carlile was absent. The ordinance went into effect immediately.