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Stiffer Fines For Not Securing Kids In Cars Under Bill [AUDIO]

Wednesday, Townsquare Media told you about a poll that reveals more New Jerseyans than not support a proposed law that would require dog owners to put their animal in a safety restraint or crate when in the car.

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Everyone should already know seat belts are required for any human in the front seat of a car. As it turns out, a trio of Assembly members thinks people need some more incentive to make sure their kids are restrained in a car too.

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green and Assembly members Upendra Chivukula and Pam Lampitt to increase the fines associated with failure to properly secure a child in a car or booster seat has been approved by an Assembly panel.

“As kids get older, it’s tempting to skip the hassle of securing them in a safety seat, especially on short trips,” says Lampitt. “But, by making the penalties associated with skipping the seat more of a hassle than using it is, we can get parents in the habit of properly securing their children every trip, every time, which will ultimately help save lives.”

The current penalty is between just $10 and $25 per incident. Under the bill, these penalties would be increased to $100 for a first offense and between $250 and $500 for second and subsequent offenses. A judge would have the option to waive the penalty for a first offense if the driver is able to demonstrate that he or she is in possession of a proper child passenger restraint system.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are the number one killer of children between one and 12 years of age in the U.S. In 2010, NHTSA data showed an average of two children killed and 325 injured each day in car accidents. Properly securing infants and toddlers reduces their chance of fatal injury by 71 percent and 54 percent, respectively.

Green says, “That is an awful statistic, made all the more terrible by the fact that almost half of the deaths could be prevented with proper car seat use. Significantly increasing the penalties associated with failure to use car seats will help drive this point home and prevent needless deaths.”

Current New Jersey law says a child under the age of eight and weighing less than 80 pounds must be in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat.

“By steeply increasing the penalties associated with not using a child safety seat, parents will hopefully think twice before heading off on a car trip without one,” says Chivukula, a member of the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. “If the increased penalties translate to an increase in child safety seat use, then they will have done their job.”

The bill also would establish a “Division of Highway Traffic Safety Child Passenger Restraint System Assistance Fund,” administered by the state Treasury Department, that would receive $25 from each fine, to be used to purchase child safety seats for individuals and organizations that need them.

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