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If passed by lawmakers, new seatbelt law will heighten traffic enforcement

River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque says those who serve in law enforcement, as EMTs and firefighters know firsthand the carnage found at crash scenes: "We see the results of not buckling up -- the way people are injured or killed after they've gone through a windshield or been thrown from a vehicle." That's why Leque supports Wisconsin switching from secondary to primary seatbelt enforcement.

Such a move has the support of the governor and will be voted on this summer by the Legislature.

Primary enforcement means drivers and passengers can be stopped for not wearing seatbelts. Secondary -- the way it is now -- means officers can ticket for not wearing a seatbelt only when there's another citable traffic offense.

Should the new primary enforcement take effect later this summer, Leque said, "I would expect to see an increase in traffic stops. We will be assertive in doing so because we know the consequences of not using seatbelts."

Statistically, Wisconsin is said to have a lower percentage of seatbelt users than the national average. A recent survey in River Falls last December showed a higher percentage of seatbelt users than the state average.

State Rep. John Murtha, a Republican who represents the northeast portion of the River Falls area in Madison, said extra seatbelt enforcement isn't needed.

"Personally, I don't think seatbelts should be a priority for law enforcement," Murtha said. "There are many other things that need doing instead. Police can still write a ticket now for those who don't buckle up if it's a secondary matter."

For more on this story, please read the April 29 print edition of the River Falls Journal.