Seat Belt Champion Awards Presented to Three Florida Legislators

The Meharry-State Farm Alliance presented Seat Belt Champion Awards this week to three Florida legislators who the alliance said were instrumental in passage of the state’s primary seat belt law. The winners are Sen. Nan H. Rich of District 34, Rep. Richard “Rich” Glorioso of District 62, and Rep. Joseph A. “Joe” Gibbons of District 105.

The awards were presented March 23 at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee, Fla. Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation attended, as did leaders of other state and national transportation safety groups. Representatives of Meharry Medical College and State Farm made the presentations.

“These lawmakers overcame tall barriers in order to pass the primary enforcement law, and now thousands of deaths and injuries will be prevented,” said Osei Mevs, Aassociate vice president for External Affairs, Meharry Medical College. "Their endeavors were exemplary and are a textbook example for lawmakers in other states to follow who are laboring to enact primary seat belt legislation.”

Chris Neal, Public Affairs manager for State Farm in Florida, agreed, saying, “State Farm has a longstanding commitment to making our roads safer. By supporting effective safety legislation, State Farm plays an important role in raising public awareness of these issues.”

Florida previously had a secondary law requiring drivers to buckle their seat belts, but officers were unable to ticket offenders unless they had been stopped for another driving violation. As of June 30, 2009, motorists can be stopped and ticketed solely for not wearing their seat belts.

The Meharry-State Farm Alliance was formed in 2002 by Meharry Medical College and State Farm Insurance to reduce disparities among minorities in seat belt use and traffic deaths and injuries. Primary seat belt legislation has been shown to increase seat belt use among all drivers by 10-15 percent, and use of seat belts has been shown to reduce the risk of death and injury by 50 percent.

Alliance scientists have estimated Florida’s new law will save the state 940 lives, prevent almost 150,000 injuries, and reduce costs by $5.5 billion in the first five years alone.

The Seat Belt Champion Award is presented to legislators who sponsor seat belt legislation, often in the face of prolonged opposition. Previous recipients include President Barack Obama for his role in the passage of Illinois’s law while a state senator.

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