Seat belt debate gets emotional

CARSON CITY -- Nevada lawmakers and witnesses gave emotional testimony Tuesday on a bill that would allow police to stop any driver they believe isn't wearing a seat belt.

The Assembly Transportation Committee reviewed Senate Bill 116, a new version of a proposal that has been killed in previous sessions despite strong support from police.

Seat belts are required in the state, but existing law keeps police from stopping a driver for no reason other than a suspicion the driver isn't belted.

Proponents of SB116, already approved by the Senate, say it would save lives and reduce injuries. Critics contend the bill interferes with personal liberty and may encourage racial profiling.

Sen. Michael Schneider, D-Las Vegas, told lawmakers to "not get emotional about why the bill was brought forward," and called it "a matter of fiscal responsibility."

"You will hear other people testify it is their right to stay unbuckled. It is their right to put their life at risk. I say if you want to attempt suicide, just get it done, but don't come to the taxpayers here and say, 'Hey, pick up my expenses for my irresponsibility.' "

Assembly Transportation Chairman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said that until he is convinced SB116 will encourage unbelted drivers to buckle up, "I probably won't be supporting this bill."

Lynn Chapman and David Schumann of the conservative Nevada Families Eagle Forum opposed the measure on constitutional grounds.

"You can't help the stupidity of some people," Chapman said. "I mean, what can you do? I don't think trying to force people to do this is the answer."

"I really don't need you folks to look after me," Schumann added.