Most people in Jacksonville and throughout Florida know that it is against the law to drive a vehicle without wearing a seat belt. A violation of this law typically results in a traffic ticket and a fine. It is also fairly common knowledge that many criminal investigations and arrests are initiated after a Jacksonville police officer pulls a car over for a traffic violation and then suspects that a crime is being committed by the driver such as a DUI (aka driving under the influence or DWI) or some type of drug possession.
However, what is not commonly known in Jacksonville and throughout Florida is that while it is illegal to drive without wearing the seat belt, a police officer may not pull a driver over for that reason alone. A seat belt violation is referred to as a secondary offense, which means that a police officer may only give a driver a ticket for that offense after the officer has stopped the driver for a different, primary offense, such as speeding or careless driving. As a result, under the current law, the fact that a driver is not wearing his/her seat belt cannot be used as a basis to pull a driver over and initiate a more serious criminal investigation into a crime such as a DUI or drug possession.
Florida lawmakers are proposing to change this law to make a seat belt violation a primary offense. If they are successful, police officers will have the authority to pull drivers who they have reason to believe are not wearing their seat belts. This would hopefully lead to fewer injuries and deaths resulting from accidents but would also likely lead to more DUI and drug arrests.