Updated: Thursday, 16 Jun 2011, 8:17 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 16 Jun 2011, 5:56 PM EDT
BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Highway safety advocates are asking lawmakers to pass primary seatbelt legislation in Massachusetts, which ranks 48th in the nation in seatbelt use. The legislation would give police the authority to stop and fine drivers for not wearing their seatbelts as a primary offence.
Highway safety advocates say that wearing a seatbelt can save 18 lives and prevent more than 650 people from being injured every year in Massachusetts. Currently, the Commonwealth has secondary seatbelt enforcement, which means police can’t cite drivers for not wearing their seatbelts unless they commit a primary violation, like speeding.
Mary Maguire’s son Alex was seventeen when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a rock wall on his way home. It took three sets of the Jaws of Life to remove him from the wreckage, but he survived.
“I later went to the junkyard and cut my son’s seatbelt out of his pickup truck so that I would never forget what saved him and saved me and my husband and my two other children and our family from what would have been a lifetime of grief,” said Maguire, who has now become a spokesperson for AAA Southern New England.
While Maguire and her son’s story have a happy ending, but not everyone is so lucky. A panel testified next on how they lost a son, daughter or friend to similar car crashes, only this time, their loved ones weren’t wearing their seatbelt. They could have been saved, they said, if they were, including 21-year-old Natalie who was on her way to see a friend when her boyfriend’s car was involved in a rollover accident in Springfield. Natalie died after she was ejected from the car.
“You see there are many Natalie’s and many families that are going through the same thing so having a primary seatbelt law will bring down those numbers significantly,” said Natalie’s Mother, Beatriz Fuentes.
“I think after having done this since 1976 you get tired of seeing a lot of these injuries that we all know are so preventable, they’re so avoidable,” said Mark Leahy, the president of the Massachusetts Chief of Police Association.
Highway safety advocates say 31 states in the country have already enacted primary seatbelt laws, which has resulted in a 10% surge in belt use.