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Organizations working to push proposed new child seat belt law

The Woodward News - 1/25/2020

Jan. 25--AAA Oklahoma, along with several other healthcare, law enforcement and child advocacy groups, are working to push House Bill 2791 aimed at protecting 8 to 17 year olds on the road.

HB 2791 is called the Child Passenger Safety Act and would require children to wear seat belts in the back seats of passenger vehicles, with the exception of licensed farm vehicles, according to AAA Oklahoma.

Most Oklahomans didn't realize there was a gap in Oklahoma's state law.

"Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed in a AAA-sanctioned poll said they were unaware that Oklahoma is the only state that doesn't require children in this age group to wear seat belts in the back seat," said AAA Oklahoma Spokesperson Leslie Gamble.

According to AAA Oklahoma, legislators voted to adopt best safety practices for infant car seat and booster seat use for children 7 and under in 2015. The language in the statute that addressed protection for older minors, ages 8 to 17, was inadvertently struck.

Several organizations have been fighting to correct the error since 2016.

"After all, older minors are more likely to be in vehicles with young drivers and with those other than their parents who may not uphold best safety practices," Gamble said.

AAA Oklahoma said that their efforts have been met with resistance by legislators who have contended that voters would see this as an infringement by government. However, AAA's poll shows that 81 percent of those surveyed would support the legislation.

"Those who say they already buckle up their children and don't see this law as necessary won't be affected," Gamble said. "It won't impact you if you are already taking correct precautions. But for the 16 kids in this age group who died without seat belts on in the back seats of vehicles and another 67 who were seriously injured in 2017 alone, we need this law. It will prevent future deaths and take Oklahoma off the list of 10 worst states for child passenger safety."

AAA Oklahoma is asking for the public's support in pushing for the new legislation.

"It's surprising that we don't already have a law to make sure all children are buckled up," Gamble said. "But perhaps more surprising is how reluctant those who represent us have been to quickly rectify this gap. We can't take their votes for granted. This is a 100 percent grassroots effort."

For more information on the law and contact information for lawmakers, visit OKSeatbelts.org

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