Since 1993, failure to wear a seat belt has been a secondary offense, meaning that citations can be issued only when a driver has been stopped for another traffic violation.
"I'm almost positive it will save lives," Patterson said of primary enforcement.
Bob Tipton, director of the Governor's Highway Safety Program, said seat belt use in West Virginia has declined slightly in the past five years, to about 84 percent. He said usage will increase will a primary-enforcement law.
Passage of the law also will mean that West Virginia will receive between $1.2 million and $1.5 million a year in additional federal highway safety funds, he said.
Tipton said those funds could be used for many safety programs, ranging from driver education to child safety seats.
"It's a whole variety of things," he said, "but it's related to [vehicle] occupant safety."
Under the bill, violations of the seat belt law would carry a fine of $25, but with no court costs or points on anyone's driving record.
Also Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee members:
• Postponed action on "Skylar's Law" (HB2453), a bill to expand the state Amber Alert law for mass notification in cases of abducted children to also apply to missing children.
Committee members Thursday raised concerns that the bill, as drafted, is not clear on procedures for how the State Police would issue an alert for missing children.
• Advanced to the full Senate a bill (HB2815) to continue the Bureau of Senior Services' state registry of certified in-home care workers.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.