Progress to Strengthen Slows, Though Many Gaps Remain
With a general shift in legislative focus to anti-texting laws, and the discontinuation of federal incentives, law upgrades to close significant gaps that remain in adult and child occupant protection laws have slowed significantly. Adult seat belt laws in 18 states still do not allow primary enforcement (in which the violator can be pulled over and cited just for that violation), and 24 states do not require adults to be restrained when sitting in rear seats. New Hampshire still has no adult seat belt law at all.
Though all states do have occupant protection for children (OPC) laws, 18 states require CR use only to ages less than 8. The least protective of these are South Dakota, which requires only children ages 4 and younger to ride in CRs, and Florida, where the requirement is age 3 or younger. Two states (Pennsylvania and Ohio) allow only secondary enforcement of the booster components of their laws. This means that violators can be cited only when the car has been pulled over for another, primary infraction.
Arizona an OPC Bright Spot
Arizona lawmakers did manage to pass a significant OPC upgrade this year. Children in that state now must ride in an appropriate CR until they are 8 years old unless they are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Before this change in the law, only children age 4 and younger were required to ride in CRs. Some tribal reservations within the state had already upgraded OPC laws, but previous attempts to pass such laws statewide had failed before this year’s successful campaign.
Maryland Drops Effort for RF to Age 2
An effort in Maryland aimed to mandate riding rear facing to age 2, but this part of the bill was ultimately removed when advocates agreed that this best practice advice was not appropriate to legislate in light of many CR limitations and real-world issues. Remaining aspects of the bill that did become law are a rear seat mandate for children under 13 and the removal of a law loophole that exempted any child weighing more than 65 pounds.
Kentucky and Louisiana Close Loopholes
Adult occupant protection loopholes were closed in Kentucky and Louisiana this year. Kentucky seat belt laws now extend to vehicles that seat up to 15 passengers. Prior to this, the law only applied to vehicles that could seat 10 people or fewer, an exemption that is still present in the laws of many other states. In Louisiana, a loophole in the law was eliminated that had exempted those riding in SUVs from following the requirement to buckle up in rear vehicle seats.
Canadian Province Passes Booster Law
Legislators in Manitoba upgraded that province’s law to apply to all children until they reach 4 feet, 9 inches, 80 pounds, or 9 years old. The law will take effect later this year. This leaves only the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Canada’s three northern territories without booster seat legislation.
Track state legislation activities at: www.ncsl.org/about-us/ncslservice/state-legislative-websites-directory.aspx
Find law details by state at: www.iihs.org
Find “2012 Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws,” a report card from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety that rates state laws (not including the legislative changes noted in this article), at: http://www.saferoads.org
©Safe Ride News July/August 2012