Editors note: This is the second in a series of articles involving new laws passed in the 81st Texas Legislature. Police Chief Roy Halsell will contribute to all reports. Look for next Sunday’s E-T to learn more about these new laws.
Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for children in the United States. It was with this sobering fact in mind that the 81st Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 61 and House Bill 537.
Senate Bill 61 specifies that all children younger than eight years old must be restrained in a child safety seat system unless they are four foot nine inches in height. This bill bumped the age where a child restraint system is required up three years, from five years of age to eight.
“You have got to have your kids restrained,” said Police Chief Roy Halsell. “Not having kids properly restrained can cause unnecessary injury.”
Such was the case in an accident on US Hwy 377 last week. Two children were ejected from a vehicle when its driver lost control. One of the children was 16, but the other was a three-year-old, who was not restrained.
A child safety restraint system can range from booster seats for older kids to a car seat for infants or an all-in-one model that grows with your child.
Many retail stores sell all of the models and parents will have to begin pricing the seats as the new law goes into effect Sept. 1.
“Even though school starts August 24 and the law doesn’t go into effect until September, I think the beginning of school is a great time to get into the habit of properly restraining your kids,” said Halsell. “I know it may slow down pick up and drop off times, but in the long run, children’s safety is worth that.”
The legislature buckled down on seatbelt laws, as well. The passage of House Bill 537 requires all passengers in a vehicle to be buckled, no matter their age or position in the vehicle. This law was also expanded to include passenger vans and to state that any child under five cannot ride on a motorcycle unless they are properly restrained in a sidecar.
The city has also banded together to begin enforcing these laws by hosting a child safety seat check day on Sept. 12. A certified child safety seat technician will be on-hand in the Wal-Mart parking lot from 9 a.m.-noon and will inspect car and booster seats to see if they meet state safety standards. If the restraint system meets the state requirements, a sticker will be placed on the seat, signifying its passage.