How they voted
Parents leaving children unattendedThe 21-19 vote by which the Senate approved a bill imposing fines starting July 1, 2008, for parents who leave children 5 or younger unattended in cars for more than five minutes.Voting yes: Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence; Anthony Hensley, D-TopekaVoting no: Roger Pine, R-Lawrence
Strengthening seat belt lawThe 30-10 vote by which the Senate approved a bill making failure to wear a seat belt a "primary" traffic infraction for drivers younger than 18.Voting yes: Pine, Francisco, Hensley
Driver's license changes The 23-17 vote by which the Senate approved a bill rewriting driver's license laws so that teenagers couldn't obtain an unrestricted license until they turned 18.Voting yes: Francisco, HensleyVoting no: Pine
Topeka Three bills designed to reduce the number of Kansas children who are killed or seriously injured in vehicle accidents won Senate approval Thursday, though the vote was close for two of them.
The bills would change the requirements for getting a full driver's license, impose fines on parents who leave their young children unattended in vehicles and strengthen the state's seat belt law.
The driver's license bill passed, 23-17. The votes were 21-19 on the measure dealing with unattended children and 30-10 on the seat belt bill. All three went to the House, which has been less enthusiastic about such safety proposals than the Senate, with many members fearing they restrict personal liberty.
Senators approved the bills as they worked to clear a bevy of measures before the Legislature's first major deadline this weekend.
Under the driver's license proposal, teenagers could not obtain full driving privileges until they reached age 18. Teens could apply for an instruction permit at 15, up from the current 14. A supervising driver would have to be in the front seat and no cell phones could be used.
At 16, up from the current minimum of 15, teens would be allowed to get a restricted license, provided they have held an instructional permit for a year, completed a driver training course, had 50 hours of supervised driving verified by a parent and had avoided any traffic infractions.
"Accidents happen from a lack of judgment. Judgment comes from experience," said Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville.
Sen. John Vratil cited a magazine article reporting that over a 41-month period from March 2003 to September 2006, 2,600 soldiers died in Iraq, while 22,000 teenagers were killed in traffic accidents.
"Are we not fully concerned about our children? Ten times as many teenagers lose their lives as military personnel in Iraq," said Vratil, R-Leawood.
Journey said testimony in committee suggested that under the law, parents and teenagers would build better relationships by being forced to spend time driving together.
"It's good for Kansas families. It's good for Kansas roads," Journey said.
The bill would allow teens with a restricted license to drive to school, work and religious activities, including coming home after dark from school-sponsored activities. Exceptions also are continued for teens living on farms.
A second bill would make failure of 14- to 17-year-olds to wear seat belts a primary offense, subject to a $60 fine. Seat belt usage by those 18 and older would remain a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement officers couldn't pull drivers over solely on suspicion of failure to wear safety belts.
"Young people are dying needlessly in the state because they aren't wearing their seat belts," said Senate Transportation Chairman Les Donovan, R-Wichita.
Opponents said the law could allow law enforcement to profile drivers or harass them based on race or age.
The third bill prohibits leaving a child age 5 or younger unattended in a vehicle for more than five minutes. A first-time offense would be a $25 fine. The law wouldn't take effect until July 1, 2008. Supporters said it was an attempt to prevent the unfortunate deaths of small children left in cars on hot days.
Donovan said a dark-colored car with dark interior can heat up to more than 140 degrees in five minutes if the outside temperature is 90 or above.
However, opponents said the bill went too far and that it didn't give Kansans the benefit of the doubt for knowing how to take care of their children.
"This bill is an insult to the parents in your district," said Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita. "This is telling your constituents what's best for their children."