OSAGE BEACH – Osage Beach is poised to become one of 40 or so Missouri communities to adopt a law that lets police pull over and ticket a driver solely for not wearing a seat belt.
The city’s Board of Aldermen on Thursday voted unanimously to give initial approval to a so-called primary seat belt enforcement ordinance.
City law currently mirrors state law, which considers seat belt violations a secondary offense. That is, police are prohibited from stopping motorists solely for such violations. That could change after the board’s next meeting on Dec. 3, when aldermen are expected to give final approval to the new law.
City Attorney Edward Rucker said the changes will permit police officers to stop a motorist and issue a $10 seat belt citation without the need for an accompanying violation.
“This makes sure that officers may pull you over if you’re not wearing a seatbelt,” he said. “They can’t do that right now.”
Rucker explained that a 2011 court case that originated in St. John, Mo., ultimately settled the legality of primary seatbelt laws for local towns and cities.
In that case, a man was pulled over for not wearing his seat belt. It turned out his driver’s license had been revoked. The officer also found marijuana the drug paraphernalia in the car. The defendant sued, saying the local primary seat belt law was not valid because it did not gibe with state law.
The attorney who represented St. John in the case said in a letter to cities and towns across Missouri that the Eastern District Court of Appeals in May 2014 ruled in favor of the local law.
“This ordinance has been, essentially, blessed by the judiciary,” said Rucker.
Since 1985, Missouri has had a law requiring motorists to buckle up. But while other states have since adopted primary seat belt laws, Missouri is among 15 that haven’t, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
A 2014 Missouri Department of Transportation study found that while 87 percent of drivers nationwide wear seat belts, just 79 percent of Missourians do. Highway and public safety officials say a statewide primary seat belt law would help increase that percentage and, ultimately, save lives.
Since 2000, the Missouri Legislature has taken up primary seat belt bills in all but two years. But it has never passed.
In other business at Thursday’s meeting the Osage Beach Board of Aldermen gave initial approval to:
• A measure to provide a $25 per diem for residents who serve on the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment, Planning Commission, Citizens Advisory Committee, Liquor Control Board, Board of Appeals, and Tax Increment Financing Commission. The fee will compensate members for the personal costs and expenses of their service. The board approved a measure that excludes aldermen who service on those boards from receiving the per diem.
• A resolution endorsing the Camden County Hazard Mitigation plan.
• A construction contract with Midwest Hydro Drilling and Services Inc. to plug two wells along Mace Road and at the Ledges. A state grant will pay the $24,000 cost to cap the wells.
• An agreement with Ameren Missouri Co. to upgrade a city sewer lift station.
• Closing City Hall on Thursday, Dec. 24, for Christmas Eve.