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Not Buckling Up May Help Solve State Budget Woes

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The summer "Click It Or Ticket" drive is in full swing. In the campaign's first week, more than 10,000 people statewide were ticketed for not buckling themselves up or their passengers. While the goal of the campaign is safety, the governor sees dollar signs.

I'm more likely to wear a seat belt as a: driver passenger both neither

Seatbelt violations are all over the docket. The state says there is untapped revenue in tickets for people who do not buckle their seat belts. A legislative proposal would add $90 in court costs to the current $25 penalty for not buckling up. The courts claim it would bring seatbelt fines in line with other violations.

"If it were a littering ticket, the violator in that case would pay $90. Right now, the state is not getting the money for all the state time that it takes to write and to process those violations," Wake County court clerk Gil File said.

"Yes, you should have your seat belt. Seat belts save lives, but it's a lot different from charging someone a late fee than to go to such an astronomical fee," motorist Elaine Matthews said. "There are better ways we could sit down at the table and come up with some better strategies."

More than 182,000 seatbelt violations were handed out in North Carolina last year. At that rate, the new court cost proposal would put $10 million into the state's dwindling general fund.

Stellyne E. Curtis lost her father in an accident where he was not wearing a seat belt.

"I don't want anybody to go through what I've gone through because it's a really terrible thing to go through, so if they have to pay the money like I said, one time, I hope it's enough," Curtis said.

The court cost proposal comes from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. The Legislature would have to approve the measure before it could become law.

Besides the current fine, a seatbelt violation costs two driver's license points, but no insurance points.

Forty-nine states have seatbelt laws, but buckling up is not the law in New Hampshire or Washington, D.C. North Carolina is one of 19 states where law officers can pull you over simply for a seatbelt violation.


Mark Roberts, Reporter
Don Ingle, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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