Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green and Assembly Democrats Upendra J. Chivukula and Pamela R. Lampitt to increase the fines associated with failure to properly secure a child in a car or booster seat was released Thursday from an Assembly panel.
“Car accidents are the single biggest killer of children under 12 in our country,” said Green (D-Union). “That is an awful statistic, made all the more terrible by the fact that almost half of the deaths could be prevented with proper car seat use. Significantly increasing the penalties associated with failure to use car seats will help drive this point home and prevent needless deaths.”
“By steeply increasing the penalties associated with not using a child safety seat, parents will hopefully think twice before heading off on a car trip without one,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset) a member of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. “If the increased penalties translate to an increase in child safety seat use, then they will have done their job.”
“As kids get older, it’s tempting to skip the hassle of securing them in a safety seat, especially on short trips,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “But, by making the penalties associated with skipping the seat more of a hassle than using it is, we can get parents in the habit of properly securing their children every trip, every time, which will ultimately help save lives.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the number one killer of children between one and 12 years of age in the U.S. In 2010, NHTSA data showed an average of two children killed and 325 injured each day in car accidents. Properly securing infants and toddlers reduces their chance of fatal injury by 71 percent and 54 percent, respectively.
The Green/Chivukula/Lampitt measure (A-1711) would increase the penalties for motor vehicle operators who fail to secure a child under the age of eight and weighing less than 80 pounds in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat.
The current penalty is between $10 and $25 per incident. Under the bill, these penalties would be increased to $100 for a first offense and between $250 to $500 for a second and subsequent offenses. A judge would have the option to waive the penalty for a first offense if the driver is able to demonstrate that he or she is in possession of a proper child passenger restraint system.
The bill also would establish a “Division of Highway Traffic Safety Child Passenger Restraint System Assistance Fund,” administered by the state reasury Department, that would receive $25 from each fine, to be used to purchase child safety seats for individuals and organizations that need them.
The measure was released by the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee by a vote of 10-1. It now heads to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.