CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday that would allow police officers to pull over drivers caught not wearing their seatbelts.
The House of Delegates passed the bill late last month on a contentious 55-44 vote following lengthy discussions in committees and on the House floor.
While at least one member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said "nay" when the measure came up for a vote, other members seem to support House Bill 2108.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, has supported similar bills for the last five legislative sessions. The Senate has passed primary offense seatbelt bills in the past, too, but the measures never gained traction in the House.
Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, asked West Virginia State Police Lt. R. Patterson if making seatbelt violations a primary offense would distract officers from their other duties.
Some House members suggested police would spend all of their time pulling over drivers for seatbelt violations and let more serious crimes go.
Patterson said the opposite would be true if the bill passed.
"It will be another tool in our arsenal to fight crime," he said.