Proposed Revision to Traffic Code Would Make Penalties for Child-Seat Violations Mandatory

Endorse JohnThe Detroit News

There’s an interesting little traffic-related bill ticking away in Lansing that may close a loophole when it comes to child safety.

Senate Bill 1241 would amend the current vehicle code to eliminate a requirement that courts must waive all penalties for a violation of safety seat requirements if the violator obtains a child safety seat before his or her appearance date in court.

According to the current law, a driver transporting a child younger than 4 years old in a motor vehicle must secure the child properly in a child seat system that meets federal standards.

A violation is a civil infraction punishable by a fine of $10 and possible court costs of $40. But the court must waive those fines if the driver shows they have acquired a proper child restraint system.

SB 1241 (which was passed by the Michigan Senate on Oct. 17) would not only make fines mandatory but would increase them to the range of $85 to $103.

The bill is being sponsored by Republican state Sen. John Proos, who represents most of Van Buren, Berrien and Cass counties in southwestern Michigan.

“The fact that the court must dismiss the charge if proof that car seat has been obtained has turned into a loophole that has been used by many violators,” Proos said.

“Court administrators have told me that they see the same people in court for the same seat violation over ad over. All they have to do is show a receipt or wave a child seat around. Sometimes, the seats don’t even have straps.”

According to Proos, on several occasions judges sent court bailiffs to the parking lot who would see violators toss the child seat into the trunk and drive off with unsecured children in the car.

The bill would not be without precedence.

On July 1, 2008, Michigan enacted a new law requiring children from ages 4 and 8 must ride in a child booster seat until they are more than 8 years old or more than 4 feet, 9 inches in height.

“There is no similar loophole in that law,” said Proos, a father of three, one of whom uses a child safety seat.

“My bill would bring uniformity to child safety. It wouldn’t allow an ‘off ramp’ for anyone driving with a child in the vehicle.”

Proos scoffed at the idea that, if passed, the law would be a revenue generator.

“There is no way of determining if it would raise any revenues because there are no statistics on how many of these violations occur each year,” Proos said. “I certainly don’t see this as an overreach of government…it would just add another layer of safety for our children.”

Senate Bill 1241 was passed by the Michigan Senate in October and is currently in the Michigan House of Representatives Transportation Committee.

Proos expects the House to vote on it next week.

“If it passes, ultimately the word will get out and chronic offenders will realize they no longer have a loop hole to fall back on,” Proos said.

“Passing the bill would be the right thing to do to help keep our kids from turning into flying missiles.”