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Illinois House passes bill requiring backseat passengers to use seatbelts

The Illinois House passed bill threquires backsepassengers buckle up too. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Medifile

The Illinois House passed a bill that requires backseat passengers to buckle up too. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: June 7, 2011 12:41AM



SPRINGFIELD — Back-seat passengers who now can decide whether to buckle up would have to start wearing seat belts under legislation that narrowly passed the House Thursday.

The bill, which squeaked through 61-55 and now heads to the Senate, would add Illinois to the list of 11 other states that require backseat seat-belt usage for all passengers.

“We’ve had people in our area killed and maimed who hadn’t had a seat belt on in the backseat,” said Rep. Mark Beaubien (R-Barrington Hills), the bill’s chief House sponsor. “Totally unnecessary.”

State data was not immediately available after Thursday’s vote. But nationwide, 1,095 back-seat passengers not wearing seat belts died in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Back-seat passengers 19 and under are now required under state law to wear seat belts, but adults have been exempted ever since Illinois passed its first seat-belt law in 1985.

Since that time, seat-belt usage has been on a steady ascent in Illinois, with nearly 93 percent of front-seat occupants wearing their seat belts as of last June, an Illinois Department of Transportation survey showed.

And after Illinois gave police the explicit authority to pull over motorists strictly for not wearing seat belts, traffic fatalities have declined. Between 2005 and 2009, traffic deaths dropped by 33 percent, according to IDOT.

“This makes all the sense in the world,” Beaubien said of his legislation, which exempts taxi passengers, school-bus occupants, those riding in the back of an ambulance or anyone with a physical infirmity that makes it difficult to wear a seat belt.

But critics argued the bill micromanages citizens about a personal decision and said they have not seen conclusive evidence that requiring back-seat seat-belt compliance will be a lifesaver.

“Get that seat belt buckled in the front. We know that saves lives. We have research. We know it,” said Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), who voted against the legislation. “The back seat? I’m not so sure.”

If the legislation passes the Senate and Gov. Quinn signs it, Illinois would join neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin and nine other states requiring adults to buckle up in the back seat.



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