More Michigan children would be required to travel in safety car seats under legislation passed this week by the state House.
Current Michigan law generally requires children under 4 to ride in a child restraint system, rather than just seat belts alone.
The bills passed by the House would broaden the requirements. Children under 4-foot-9 and less than 80 pounds would have to be in a restraint system or a booster seat until they turn 8.
The main bill in the package passed by a 101-7 vote. The legislation now goes to the Senate.
Another bill would require that child restraint systems for the younger children be in the back seat, if the vehicle has a back seat. And the bills would eliminate Michigan’s current exemption for a child being nursed.
“It’s important that we protect our young children,” said Rep. Barb Byrum, a Democrat from Onondaga and one of the package’s sponsors.”This will help ensure that our kids are protected.”
Supporters say that booster seats are far more likely to protect children from death and injury than seat belts alone.
The House bills also would seek to find new sources of money for a fund designed to help provide child seats for those who need them and educate the public about the effort. Democrats who sponsored the bills said they would make Michigan eligible to receive federal funds.
The bills are aimed at bringing Michigan up to speed with federal recommendations related to child safety seats. According to a coalition called Safe Kids Michigan, the state has some of the nation’s most lenient child safety seat laws.
The federal government recommends car safety seats for children up to 40 pounds and booster seats for children over 40 pounds until they are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. All children should ride in the back seat until age 13, according to the federal recommendations.
Similar legislation in Michigan fizzled in 2004, mostly because some Detroit-area lawmakers were concerned about the system of fines included in that year’s version. But this year’s legislation has changes that might make it more acceptable.
A civil infraction fine for a child not secured in a restraint system would be recommended. Court fees and other charges could boost the total bill to $65.
But one of the bills in the House package would allow courts to waive the fines, particularly if those assessed the fines get car seats before their court date.
The child booster seat bills are House Bills 4536-4538 and 4939.
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