Stiffer penalties for parents when children don’t buckle up

New guidelines are in effect in Texas for children riding in automobiles, and stiffer penalties await drivers who are caught in violation of these laws. Seat belt and child safety restraint laws have been in effect for more than ten years in the state of Texas. Each session since 1995, the Legislature has amended these laws in some form. The 2001 Legislature was no different. S.B. 133 set the age limit for children in a child passenger safety-restraint at younger than four, or less than 36 inches in height. This moved the age limit up from the existing level of younger than two years of age. This bill also increased the age requirement of seat-belted passengers from younger than 15 to younger than 17 and applied the rule to both the front and the rear seat of a vehicle. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 73 percent of all rear-seat passenger car deaths are the result of the deceased being unrestrained. This amendment encourages younger passengers to buckle up early in their lives, hopefully reducing deaths and injuries in the long run. The second bill to take effect Sept. 1 that affects child safety in automobiles is H.B. 1739. This bill increased the penalty to violators of child-restraint laws from a fine of no less than $25, but no more than $50 to no less than $100 and no more than $200. H.B. 1739 provides a second option for judges presiding over these cases. If a judge opts for probation of an offender instead of fines, the judge must order the offender to successfully complete a specialized driving safety course. The course will emphasize the effectiveness of child passenger safety seats and seat belts in reducing the harm to children transported in motor vehicles and the requirements of state law and the penalty for noncompliance.

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