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A bill to toughen Utah's seat-belt laws sped through a Senate committee on Tuesday, and headed to the home stretch toward becoming law after years of controversy.
The Senate Business and Labor Committee approved HB91 on a 3-1 vote, and sent it to the full Senate. It previously passed the House 41-32.
The bill would make failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense, meaning officers could stop and cite people directly for the lapse. Currently, Utah has a "secondary" law for those 18 and older. A $45 ticket can be issued only when an officer stops a vehicle for another reason.
It has been fought for years by people who contend it infringes on their personal liberty. But its sponsor, Rep. Lee Perry, a Highway Patrol lieutenant, says not buckling up threatens others' safety.
He told the committee unbuckled drivers "become projectiles" in accidents and often hurt others in the car. Also, not buckling up can make it more likely that drivers cause accidents by losing control of their cars during swerving.
The committee took only five minutes for debate on Tuesday, and no one spoke in opposition. It was supported in brief comments by a parade of medical, insurance, safety and law-enforcement groups.
Committee Chairman Curt Bramble, R-Provo, noted the law is written to come up for reauthorization after three years. Perry said studies on its effects are planned, which could lead to its renewal.