Increases Fines from $10-25 to $100, Allows Provisions for First-time Offenses
A bill sponsored Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Burlington, Camden) increasing penalties for motor vehicle operators who fail to secure a child under age eight, and weighing less than 80 pounds in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat in a rear seat, cleared the Assembly Women and Children Committee Monday.
The current penalty for failing to take this crucial safety precaution is a fine ranging between $10-$25. The bill, (A-2095), increases the penalty for a first offense to a fine of $100, however, for a first offense, the court is to waive the fine if the defendant demonstrates that he or she has a child passenger restraint system. The fine for second and subsequent offenses would be no less than $250 and no more than $500.
Lampitt noted that bill was originally sponsored by the late Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union).
“It’s certainly fitting that this bill was sponsored by a man who dedicated his life to serving others,” said Lampitt (D-Burlington, Camden). “Jerry Green was a gem of an assemblyman and the epitome of a legislator who fought for those who could not fight for themselves. These young children are such people, and we must remain vigilant by taking every measure possible to keep them safe when they are riding in motor vehicles. One life cut short from a car accident because a child passenger restraint system was not being used is one life too many.”
A New Jersey Highway Safety Plan submitted to the Federal Government for FY 2018 found that children from 0-15 years old accounted for approximately 13 percent of unrestrained occupants involved in a crash. The correct use of child safety restraints can have a positive effect on reducing injuries and fatalities in children. The challenge is ensuring that these restraints, whether a car seat or booster seat, are installed properly.
In addition, car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages1-15 years. The estimated rate of car seat misuse observed at observational study at a fitting station in New Jersey was 80 percent. Occupants required to be secured in car or booster seats have a non-compliance rate of approximately 10 percent based on observational surveys.
The bill also establishes a Division of Highway Traffic Safety Child Passenger Restraint System Assistance Fund to be administered by the state treasurer. Of the moneys collected from each fine, $25 would be deposited into the fund and used exclusively by the Division of Highway Traffic Safety to purchase child passenger restraint systems. They would be distributed to individuals and organizations that establish and maintain child passenger restraint system lending programs.
The bill was introduced in January and now awaits further consideration from the Assembly.