"It is very important that all children, regardless of age, are properly secured in a vehicle to keep them as safe as humanly possible," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said of parents' responsibility to protect their children while traveling in a vehicle. "I wish all cars were indestructible and that the car itself would take care of protecting you without having to do anything, but as we all know that is not the case."
Children from birth to age eight must ride in the age-appropriate child safety seats or booster seats while those children from 8 to 16 years of age must use the proper child restraints or seat belts while riding in any seat position of all vehicles, including trucks and sports utility vehicles.
Current state laws also stipulate that anyone older then the age of 16 must be restrained by a seat belt when riding in the front seat of any passenger vehicle.
"This law will help to educate parents," Heaton said. "Enforcing this law will help those children whose parents either aren't aware of the proper restraint or simply do not feel it is important."
According to statistical data supplied by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Board approximately 54 percent of children traveling in vehicles are unrestrained and at serious risk for fatal injuries in accidents.
"Why people resist laws that are intended to help protect them is hard for me to comprehend," Heaton said, adding concern for naive teenage drivers who are often unaware of the laws because of their lack of driving experience. "There are several types of serious injuries that contribute to deaths, especially among teenagers, during accidents that could be reduced greatly just by following the laws designed to protect them and wearing a safety belt."
Violation of the new law will be a Class D infraction, which carries a $25 fine.
The new law requires that these fines be deposited into a state fund to create grants. The grants will be made available to public or private organizations to create programs for the purchase and distribution of child restraint systems to those who are otherwise unable to afford them.
Josh Cannon photo
Lynn McClelland and Nanette Young wait as Brandon Halleck reviews the safety of their child restraint seats.