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City to keep seat belt fine at $30

It'll be a little more expensive to get busted without a seat belt in Wichita than in many other parts of the state.

Wichita City Council members voted 5-1 Tuesday to maintain the city's fine at $30.

That comes after the state recently reduced the fine to $5 along with a move that made seat belt violations a primary law, which means police can pull you over for that alone.

Previously, Kansas law enforcement officers had to pull drivers over for another violation before they could write a seat belt ticket.

The statewide fine will climb to $10 in mid-2011.

Council member Paul Gray opposed the city's move to retain its $30 fine.

"I think it's unreasonable that a police officer can have the right to pull you over for only not wearing a seat belt," he said. "I think if you choose not to wear a seat belt, that's a foolish decision on your part."

He said law enforcement officers have more important work to do.

"They should be pulling over the people who are doing things that are more likely to cause an accident," he said.

City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf said the law department recommended the city retain its fine because several studies show that larger fines lead to more people wearing seat belts, which saves lives.

Kansas' current $5 fine is the lowest in the nation, according to data compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Experts interviewed by the Kansas City Star last month said the low fine and the fact that seat belt violations are not recorded on driving records can undercut traffic safety efforts.

Kansas' seat belt use ranked 38th nationally in 2008.

About 70 percent of people killed on Kansas highways in 2008 weren't wearing a seat belt.

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