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Nov. 19, 2017
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Minutes for HB2076 - Committee on Transportation

Short Title

Creating the seat belt safety fund and increasing the fine for adult seat belt violations.

Minutes Content for Tue, Mar 7, 2017

Chairperson Petersen opened the hearing on the bill.

Scott Wells, Revisor, gave an overview.  This bill would establish the Seat Belt Safety Fund administered by the Secretary of Transportation. Section 2 would increase the fine for an adult not wearing a seat belt from $10 to $30. All moneys in the fund would be used to promote and educate on occupant protection among children, including programs in schools in Kansas.  Section 3 adds language to direct $20 from each $30 fine for violation of a city ordinance requiring seat belt use by those 18 and older into this fund.  Section 4 deals with state violations remitted to the State and percentages to various funds, with each additional percentage adjusted so that the original fund would be held harmless.  He answered a question that, yes, the intent of the bill was additional money for the Seat Belt Safety Fund.

Jim Hanni, AAA Kansas, and Travis Lowe, Gaches, Braden and Associates, gave proponent testimony (Attachment 1).   Mr. Hanni noted car crashes are the number one killer of Kansas youth.  He said this bill encourages and increases occupant restraint usage among teen drivers through the SAFE (Seatbelts Are For Everyone) program.  Seven out of ten (71%) of all people killed or injured in crashes are unrestrained. The SAFE program has raised seat belt usage from 61% to 86% in seven years in schools with the program.  Six out of ten high schools have not yet experienced the SAFE program largely because of funding.  The majority of teens do not have access to this effective, life-saving peer-to-peer education program.  The goal is to have the program available to all high schools in the state.

The seat belt fine is the same as it was five years ago when the law was passed.  Originally, it was $30, but in 2011, the Legislature lowered the fine to $10.  As for other states, none have a seat belt fine lower than the current Kansas fine of $10.  Other states had $25, $50, or $100 fines.

Mr. Lowe explained there are 11 beneficiaries, including Children's Advocacy Center, Crime Victims Assistance, EMS, Trauma, and the State General Fund that split the revenue generated from remittances of fines, penalties, and forfeitures by clerks of the district court. This bill adds a 12th beneficiary, and the percentages were re-adjusted to equal 100%.  A report from the Office of Judicial Administration indicates that applying the $20 increase over a three-year average would result in an estimated  revenue increase of $382,487 to the Seat Belt Safety Fund.

Seat belt violations reported by the Kansas Highway Patrol were on a decline from 23,247 for FY2013 to 14,997 for FY 2015 according to the report from the Office of Judicial Administration.

In answer to questions, Mr. Lowe said:

  • The bill would not add court costs.  This is not intended to be a revenue generator, but rather it is about the SAFE program being available to all high schools.
  • Number estimates on seat belt violations can better be addressed by law enforcement.
  • There has been no discussion about a photographic system in the state to detect seat belt violations.

The revised fiscal note for this bill will be sent to Committee members by e-mail.

Norraine Wingfield, Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office, and Dave Corp, Law Enforcement Liaison, Kansas Department of Transportation, provided proponent testimony (Attachment 2). The SAFE program is maintained through Ms. Wingfield's office.  SAFE  began after four high school students from Ulysses, Kansas, were killed in a traffic accident and none were wearing seat belts; there was a movement to prevent or lessen such loss of life in the future.  The SAFE program is now in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Iowa.

Ms. Wingfield added that children are more likely to be buckled up if the driver is also belted.  If the driver is belted, about 96% of children are also belted.  If the driver is not belted only about 27% of the observed children were also belted.  Crawford County in 2008 had 54% of kids buckled; in 2014, the result was 85%.  Montgomery County was 74% in 2009; this year, it was 91%.  Both counties have had the SAFE program for over five years.  In 2015-2016, there were 142 participating schools and 62 counties.  The goal is to have the SAFE program in all high schools.

Mr. Corp was a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper for many years, and said he has never seen a program, either from any other state or any other government agency, to be more effective.  Car design has improved, and there are no sharp objects in the "live zone" of the cars today.  If a person or persons can stay within that zone, the chance of surviving or having fewer injuries is great.  Teens are busy, jump in the car and forget to secure the seat belt.  SAFE changes the culture.  The seat belt should be buckled when the car is started.  Seat belt fines are only paid by those who break the law.

In response to questions, Mr. Corp replied:

  • Concerning the fatality rate for teens vs. adults, the information can be obtained.  Although there were more overall traffic deaths last year, the teen fatalities were down. Mr. Hanni noted that about 10% of all fatalities in Kansas involve a teen driver but teens are about 5% of all licensed drivers.
  • The 142 schools include several middle schools or combined schools.
  • This bill is strictly for funding SAFE to be available in all schools.

Chantel Shaw, sophomore at Pleasanton High School, provided proponent testimony (Attachment 3) and told of a terrible accident she was involved in earlier this year.  Her car was hit by a truck traveling at 55 miles per hour, and she feels if she had not had the seat belt buckled, she would not be here today.  She is an active member and officer of her school SAFE club chapter. She belongs because she truly believes in the program.  Nine out of ten teens survive vehicle crashes when wearing a seat belt, and when not, there is a 50% chance of survival.  She asked for support of this bill.

In response to questions, Ms. Shaw responded that fundraising is being done now, but more money is needed to extend the SAFE program all across Kansas.

Vonnie Rickerson gave proponent testimony (Attachment 4) conveying a very emotional story about her mother who was not wearing a seat belt and who was killed in a very bad wreck before Kansas had seat belt laws.  A second crash in 2016 involved her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend.  Their car hit a tree, rolled twice, and flipped end to end.  A life flight helicopter was called to take them to a Joplin hospital. Her daughter suffered a serious concussion, loss of memory, and broken bones and bruises.  The driver had a broken leg and foot as well as numerous cuts and bruises.  Ms. Rickerson added that the seat belts saved the couple, and after a few weeks, they were back to daily routines.  She added that if her mother had had the seat belt buckled, she would be alive today.

Proponent testimony was given by Teresa Taylor (Attachment 5).  She represented Kansas Emergency Nurses Association, Safe Kids of Kansas, and Kansas State Nurses Association.  She is a registered nurse and has worked in the emergency room for many years.  She noted that nurses see first hand these devastating injuries and deaths of teens involved in vehicle accidents.  It is believed these injuries and deaths would be significantly reduced or prevented if teens understand the importance of wearing a seat belt through SAFE.  The organizations she represents very much appreciated the graduated driver's license law.  This bill is consistent with that injury prevention focus.

Sheriff Sandy Horton (retired), Executive Director, Kansas Sheriffs Association, provided proponent testimony (Attachment 6).  He was in law enforcement for many years and the SAFE program started in his county, Crawford.  When he was Sheriff of that county, he was surprised to hear that Crawford had the lowest seat belt compliance rate in the state, 53% overall, and only 61% of teen drivers buckled up.  In 2012, the compliance rate increased to 88%.  Of 33 rollover accidents that year involving teen drivers, only 3 were unbuckled.  There were no teen fatalities in 2008 through 2015 since introducing SAFE.  SAFE is the only program on this topic available to Crawford County. This bill would create a substantial and continual funding source for the program; currently local officials must find funding, and that is becoming more difficult and time-consuming.  For three years, proponents have been trying to get this passed and he asked to please support this bill and save Kansas kids.

In response to questions, Mr. Horton said:

For the six high schools in Crawford County, $9,000 is needed for the SAFE program.

  • Ms. Wingfield noted the SAFE program is operated under a 501(c)(3) organization for donations.
  • Senator Fitzgerald thanked Mr. Horton for the program and all the work involved.

Ed Klumpp, Legislative Liaison, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police and Kansas Peace Officers Association, gave proponent testimony (Attachment 7).  He said there is no question that strengthening the seat belt laws several years ago has been a part of the reduction of fatalities and serious injuries in Kansas.  SAFE is aimed at teen drivers and the program has proven effective in increasing seat belt usage and reducing fatalities and injuries.  He called attention to the charts on the second page of his testimony which indicate the number of district court traffic cases and amount of fines have drastically declined overall in the state.  His organization donates to the SAFE organization and is not concerned about the loss of funds as fine money goes down. The passage of this bill will expand the program and will provide EMS funding to meet budget estimates.  The decreasing traffic cases in district court have resulted in a steady decline in funding over the last ten years.  The seat belt fine increase from $10 to $30 will add funding to such agencies as EMS, Trauma, etc.  He also noted, in response to an earlier question, photo enforcement has not been done at all in Kansas relating to moving violations or seat belt violations, and it would take a specific change in law and additional personnel if it were implemented.

Written testimony in support of the bill was provided by:

Amanda Gress - Kansas Action for Children (Attachment 8)

Carol Perry, Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer - Stormont Vail Health (Attachment 9)

William Sachs, M.D., Vice President, Trauma Medical Director - Stormont Vail Health

Susan Mosier, M.D. - Secretary, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (Attachment 10)

Lieutenant Adam Winters - Kansas Highway Patrol (Attachment 11)

There was no opponent testimony.

Neutral written-only testimony was provided by:

Joseph House, Paramedic and Executive Director, Emergency Medical Services Board (Attachment 12).

The hearing on this bill was closed.

Senator Schmidt thanked Jim Hanni, AAA Kansas, for the graduated driver's license bill, for bringing the seat belt bill forward, for working on so many safety issues, and for making Kansas a better place to live and work. Mr. Hanni will be retiring from his position shortly.