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Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Senate advances bill to strengthen child passenger safety laws

March 16, 2005

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— Senators are trying again to strengthen Kansas' child passenger safety law, giving first-round approval Tuesday to a bill requiring all minors to wear seat belts or ride in special safety seats.

The measure, advanced on a voice vote, also would triple the fine for violating the law to $60 and make it easier for law enforcement officers to ticket young drivers.

The Senate planned to take final action on the bill today, when passage would send the measure to the House. Senators approved similar bills in 2001, 2002 and 2004, only to see them die in the other chamber.

Strengthening the law has been a goal of some legislators, law enforcement agencies and child advocates since 2001, when Kansas' existing law received an "F" from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

Supporters of the bill contend a stronger law will save lives.

"It's time to have kids buckle up," said Sen. Mark Taddiken, R-Clifton.

Current law requires children under 4 to ride in special child safety seats. Children from 4 through 13 must wear seat belts. Also, all drivers and front-seat passengers must buckle up.

Officers can only ticket people for violating that law if they first stop a driver for another reason, such as speeding.

Under the bill, children 4 through 7 would have to ride in booster seats, designed to provide more protection than seat belts, if they weigh less than 80 pounds or are less than 4-foot-9 in height. Anyone else under 18 would have to wear seat belts.

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