A D.C. City Council committee approved legislation yesterday that would make the wearing of seat belts mandatory for anyone in the front seat of a motor vehicle driven in the District.
In reviewing the bill, which had been introduced by council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), the council's Committee on Public Works dropped provisions that would have required back-seat passengers under the age of 18 to wear a seat belt. The bill would exempt persons using cars built before July 1966 and riders who are unable to wear seat belts for medical reasons.
Enforcement would be limited to situations where officials have a probable cause to detain a driver for some other offense. The mayor would establish penalties for violators if the bill becomes law.
To date, 13 state legislatures have passed mandatory seat belt laws. Maryland and Virginia legislators rejected such bills earlier this year.
Yesterday, council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), chairman of the public works committee, said she expects the full council to adopt the seat belt bill, but questioned how effectively such a law could be enforced. She said that drivers could not force passengers to wear seat belts and that she is uncertain whether a driver would receive a ticket if a passenger failed to wear a belt.
In another transportation matter, council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) has introduced a bill that would authorize District taxi drivers to display rooftop advertising.
The proposal would permit the District to collect an annual $50 advertising permit fee for each taxicab and prevent drivers from displaying any advertising that is deceptive or misleading.
Crawford said that the proposed fees would generate an estimated $1.1 million annually in city revenue.