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Ill. seatbelt law - fair?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Ill. seatbelt law - fair?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
July 10, 2013

Is the Illinois seatbelt law fair? Should it be declared unconstitutional, because it is written to exclude a class of driver most in need of protection against injury in the event of a crash?

Thanks to a reader who read in a comment on another local blog that Undersheriff Andy Zinke might have been operating a vehicle of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department while unbelted, I now know that "A driver or passenger of an official emergency vehicle" is excluded under 625 ILCS 5/12-603(b) 10.

If there is anyone in the State of Illinois who should be required to wear a seatbelt, it's a law-enforcement officer operating a squad car. At a moment's notice he might find himself beginning a chase, often at high speeds, placing him in harm's way.

Instead, they are exempt, yet they nail unbelted drivers poking along in traffic at 25MPH or stopped at stop signs. Is this fair? Is it actually discriminatory?

Two other sections of the same statute raise questions.

Section (d) reads, "A violation of this Section shall be a petty offense and subject to a fine not to exceed $25."

Aren't fines for seatbelt tickets a lot higher than this? How much? $50? $75? If the statute reads "not to exceed", doesn't this mean that a court or city could charge less, but not more?

And the last section - "(f) A law enforcement officer may not search or inspect a motor vehicle, its contents, the driver, or a passenger solely because of a violation of this Section."

Does this mean if an officer spots an open alcohol container (beer can) or contraband, he must overlook it? What about a bulging bank bag on the back seat and a mask? Or even a firearm?

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