Gov. Jim Doyle laid out plans yesterday to cut $167 million off of the state's $593 million budget deficit. Here's another way Doyle could make some money: ticket people for not wearing seat belts.
Ohio and a few other states are reportedly working on new seat belt enforcement laws to earn more federal dollars. The rub is states have to allow officers to pull over drivers who aren't wearing seat belts, which is known as primary enforcement. Twenty-seven states allow this.
Right now, Wisconsin only allows seat belt tickets if you're pulled over for another reason, and then caught belt-less. This is called secondary enforcement, and Wisconsin is one of 23 states in the nation with this type of law.
The difference between the laws is millions of dollars. If Ohio passes its law, it could receive about $27 million more in federal funding. Wisconsin would have received $17.3 million last year if it had a primary enforcement law. The many could have been used for highway construction.
Here's the fallout:
1. People don't like to be told what to do in their cars. This would require them to wear a seat belt or risk getting pulled over.
2. Getting pulled over is a big deal for people out on warrants. It can lead to arrests, fines and the loss of a car, even if they're wanted on relatively minor crimes. It would give police another tool, but would throw more people into a jail and prison system that's already overcrowded and very expensive.
3. Some people really don't like wearing a seat belt.
So these are trade offs starts are facing these days. Do they sell away people's individual rights for money? Or do they defend their own laws and lose out on millions of dollars that could be used to create construction jobs?