HUGHESVILLE – As students were leaving the building last Wednesday afternoon from Hughesville High School, Police Chief Jason Gill and fellow patrol officer, Rod Smith were handing out flyers on the new safety seat belt laws for drivers under the age of 18.
According to PennDot guidelines, small posters reading “No Exceptions. You Will Get A Ticket For Not Wearing Your Safety Belt” were given to each student driver as they drove out of the parking lot.
Governor Corbett signed into legislation the new law (Act 81) that took effect on December 27, 2011 in an effort to enhance safety on Pennsylvania roads, and to improve passenger restraint laws. All drivers and passengers who are under the age of 18 must buckle up, or it will be a primary violation according to Chief Gill. Before the changes, not buckling up was a secondary offense. “Drivers can now be pulled over for it,” replied Chief Gill.
PennDot is encouraging all law enforcement agencies by providing funding to educate students and their communities on the new provisions. The law in itself, is structured to assist junior drivers to receive more comprehensive training, and to ease the distractions through limiting the number of passengers they may carry. The new law also emphasizes that under age 18 drivers cannot transport more passengers than the number of seat belts in the vehicle.
“This is now a primary law. That means if you are pulled over without a seat belt and you are under 18, we will write you a ticket and if convicted, you will need to pay a fine,” explained Chief Gill. If a driver is over 18 and pulled over for another violation, then a second ticket will be given, if the driver or any front seat passengers are not wearing seat belts.
Officer Smith said that if any of the students were not wearing their seat belts, they were given a warning on Wednesday since they were just receiving the information first hand on the new laws from the officers.
The new law Act 81 also increases supervised, behind the wheel skill building for learner’s permit holders under 18 years old from 50 hours to 65 hours. PennDot officials relate that ten of the added hours will consist of nighttime driving, while the other five additional hours must be driven in poor weather conditions.
Also for the first six months after receiving their junior license, a driver is not permitted to have more than one passenger under age 18 who is not an immediate family member in their vehicle, unless they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. “If no violations occur after six months, they can move up to 3 passengers under age 18 who are not their immediate family,” said Officer Smith.
These seat belt requirements will be enforced locally according to the officers for all those who are under 18 and not properly fastened in a seat belt. Children under the age of 8, must be securely fastened in an authorized child restraint system. “These new laws are now a primary offense,” said Chief Gill.