safety belts save lives

Appendix B
Fundamentals for Upgrading from a Secondary to a Primary Safety Belt Use Law

Knowledge of the legislative process, a strong, well-written safety belt law, and support from local and national partners will aid in the passage of a primary law.

Knowledge of the Legislative Process

Consider the following insights gleaned from a study of six States that passed primary laws.44

  • Clarify the overall legislative objective—stay focused on the passage of a primary law. Understand the need for compromise on the details, e.g., exemptions and fines.

  • Understand the unique complexity of the political situation in your State—learn who the players are and what leverage is available.

  • Identify and respond to opposition arguments—identify opportunities for persuasive compromise and vote-changing leverage, e.g., a sunset provision ( a clause is a provision in a statute or regulation that terminates or repeals all or portions of the law after a specific date, unless further legislative action is taken to extend it), language to recognize harassment concerns, etc.

  • Identify barriers not directly related to overt opposition, e.g., a committee chair who isn’t a strong supporter of traffic safety or the Governor’s priorities.

  • Look for emerging opportunities and threats to passage—trading support for other pending legislation, making legislative compromises, e.g., lower fines.

  • Identify opportunities for organizations and individuals to play effective roles—use representatives of a traffic safety coalition to testify, have individuals speak with key legislators about their concerns.

  • Capitalize on dramatic incidents that affect political will—provide key legislators with statistics and the names of individuals killed in crashes in their home district, identify legislators who have been in a motor vehicle crash.

A Strong, Well-Written Safety Belt Law

Having a strong, well-written safety belt law is crucial to saving lives. The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances (NCUTLO) developed a model primary safety belt law for States to consider when upgrading their safety belt legislation (see Appendix C). Using this model law as a framework for safety belt legislation can be a tremendous help, as this sample legislation has been thoroughly researched and reviewed by traffic safety experts. NCUTLO is a private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to providing uniformity of traffic laws and regulations through the timely dissemination of information and model legislation on traffic safety issues. More information about NCUTLO is available on their Web site at Another excellent resource that is available on NHTSA’s Web site ( is titled, “Implementing a Standard Enforcement Seat Belt Law in Your State: A How-to Guide.”

National Partnerships

NHTSA has worked with hundreds of partners nationwide by providing educational resources, research data, and technical support regarding safety belt laws. For more information, visit NHTSA’s Web site at