Safety matters

It took a while, and in some cases a ticket or two, but most Ohioans of driving age now know the benefits of buckling up.
But accident statistics suggest that some drivers still don’t require young passengers to wear a seat belt, an act of negligence that police can do little about.
That’s because state law doesn’t allow officers to stop a vehicle even if they observe an unrestrained child in a moving vehicle.
That should change, and will, if dual bills sponsored by Dorothy Pelanda, R-Marysville, in the House, and by Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, in the Senate, are approved.
House Bill 480 and Senate Bill 302 are in committee and have the support of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, AAA, and Akron Children’s Hospital.
Both would allow the enforcement of requirements for child car seats, booster seats, and seat belts for all children younger than 15 as a primary offense.
Currently, failure to properly secure a child violations are considered a secondary offense.
The bills are hard to argue against.
According to the State Highway Patrol, 880 of the more than 25,300 accidents reported in Ohio in 2013 involved children not using a seat belt.
Pelanda and Schiavoni believe stricter passenger-restraint laws will lead to more people buckling up their kids, and, in turn, lives will be saved and injuries averted.
States with primary safety belt laws generally have better compliance rates than those without.
Certainly, finding ways to minimize injuries and deaths that result in traffic accidents is in the public’s interest.
Added protections should be in place for those who are too young to have learned the benefits of wearing a safety belt or aren’t required to by an uninformed or negligent driver.
It’s one thing for an adult to put themselves at risk by not buckling up. It’s another if they leave a child vulnerable by failing to restrain them.
A stronger safety belt law shouldn’t be needed, but it is.
If a driver doesn’t have the common sense to safely restrain a child, then police should have a tool to encourage them to do so.

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