Senate Bill 336 History
Senate Bill No. 336
(By Senators Palumbo, Foster, McCabe, Kessler and Wells)
[Introduced February 24, 2009; referred to the Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure; and then to the Committee on
A BILL to amend and reenact §17C-15-49 of the Code of West
Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to making the offense of
failure to wear safety belts a primary offense.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §17C-15-49 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as
amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 15. EQUIPMENT.
§17C-15-49. Operation of vehicles with safety belts; exception;
penalty; civil actions; educational program by West
Virginia State Police.
(a) Effective September 1,
one thousand nine hundred
a person may not operate a passenger vehicle on
a public street or highway of this state unless the person, any
passenger in the back seat under eighteen years of age and any passenger in the front seat of
passenger vehicle is
restrained by a safety belt meeting applicable federal motor
vehicle safety standards. For the purposes of this section, the
term "passenger vehicle" means a motor vehicle which is designed
for transporting ten passengers or less, including the driver,
term does not include a motorcycle, a trailer
or any motor vehicle which is not required on the date of the
enactment of this section under a federal motor vehicle safety
standard to be equipped with a belt system. The provisions of this
apply to all passenger vehicles manufactured after
January 1, 1967, and being 1968 models and newer.
(b) The required use of safety belts as provided
does not apply to a duly appointed or contracted rural
mail carrier of the United States Postal Service who is actually
making mail deliveries or to a passenger or operator with a
physically disabling condition whose physical disability would
prevent appropriate restraint in
safety belt if the
condition is duly certified by a physician who
shall state states
the nature of the disability as well as the reason
restraint is inappropriate. The Division of Motor Vehicles shall
rules for legislative approval,
in accordance with
the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, to establish
a method to certify the physical disability and to require use of
an alternative restraint system where feasible or to waive the requirement for the use of any restraint system.
(c) Any person who violates the provisions of this section
shall be fined
not more than twenty-five $15.
No court costs or
be assessed for a violation of this section.
Enforcement of this section shall be accomplished only as a
secondary action when a driver of a passenger vehicle has been
detained for probable cause of violating another section of this
(d) A violation of this section is not admissible as evidence
of negligence or contributory negligence or comparative negligence
in any civil action or proceeding for damages and
admissible in mitigation of damages: Provided,
That the court may,
upon motion of the defendant, conduct an in camera hearing to
determine whether an injured party's failure to wear a safety belt
was a proximate cause of the injuries complained of. Upon
finding by the court, the court may then, in a jury trial, by
special interrogatory to the jury, determine: (1) That the injured
party failed to wear a safety belt; and (2) that the failure to
wear the safety belt constituted a failure to mitigate damages.
The trier of fact may reduce the injured party's recovery for
medical damages by an amount not to exceed five percent
the medical damages.
In the event the plaintiff stipulates to the
reduction of five percent of medical damages, the court shall make
the calculations and the issue of mitigation of damages for failure to wear a safety belt
not be presented to the jury. In
all cases, the actual computation of the dollar amount reduction
shall be determined by the court.
(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the
contrary, no points may be entered on any driver's record
maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles as a result of a
violation of this section.
Commencing the first day of July, one thousand nine
The Governor's Highway Safety Program, in
cooperation with the
division of public safety West Virginia State
and any other state departments or agencies and with county
and municipal law-enforcement agencies, shall initiate and conduct
an educational program designed to encourage compliance with safety
belt usage laws. This program shall be focused on the
effectiveness of safety belts, the monetary savings and the other
benefits to the public from usage of safety belts and the
requirements and penalties specified in this law.
(g) Nothing contained in this section
shall be construed to
abrogate or alter abrogates or alters
the provisions of section
forty-six of this article relating to the mandatory use of child
passenger safety devices.
(NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to change the offense of
failure to wear a safety belt to a primary offense.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from
the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would