Staff report

The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday gave final passage to a bill requiring all occupants of a vehicle to wear a seat belt.

The legislation sponsored by Sen. David Burkette (D-Montgomery) and Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville) passed the House 76 to 17, and now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey to be signed into law.

The bill was named after Roderic Deshaun Scott, the Robert E. Lee High School basketball star from Montgomery who died after a car crash in 2016.

Burkette passed the bill in the Senate while Sells carried the House companion bill. Rep. Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery) joined Sells on the House floor in urging final passage.

“The Roderic Deshaun Scott Seat Belt Safety Act puts a human face on an issue that’s long overdue to be addressed,” Hatcher said. “This is an important step in strengthening the safety culture in Alabama by requiring seat belt use by back-seat passengers.”

Sells said, “National data show us that seat belt use and compliance with seat belt laws may be the most effective safety measure we can take. Now, Alabama’s seat belt law will truly reflect the importance of seat belts in highway safety.”

Burkette said he hopes the bill, if signed into law, will save thousands of lives in the years to come.

“I am saddened that it took such a tragedy to serve as the impetus for passing this law but honoring Roderic Scott is an appropriate way to preserve the memory of this special young man,” he said.

Sixty percent of those killed on Alabama highways are not wearing seat belts, especially in the back seat, according to Tony Harris, the government relations manager at the Alabama Department of Transportation.

“Many crashes are survivable with the use of a seat belt,” he said.

Alabama would be the 29th state to require seat belt use by rear-seat vehicle occupants if Ivey signs the bill. Alabama law since 2000 has required use of seat belts by front-seat vehicle occupants. The law had not addressed seat belt use in rear seats by occupants over the age of 15.

Rear-seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a crash if they are not wearing a seat belt, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.