OKLAHOMA CITY – Democratic leaders at the state Capitol expressed gratitude to Gov. Mary Fallin after she signed legislation intended to protect Oklahoma children from being killed or maimed in traffic accidents.
House Bill 1847 by House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, and Senate Democratic Leader Randy Bass, D-Lawton, sets what a House staff release characterized as “new life-saving standards for securing a child riding in a motor vehicle.”
The chief executive affixed her signature to the measure on Friday (June 5). The new law goes into effect Nov. 1.
In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, Inman said, “I am deeply gratified that Governor Fallin signed House Bill 1847,” which requires a child under the age of 2 to be secured in a rear-facing car seat, and children older than 2 and younger than 8 or until they reach the height of 4’9”, to be properly secured in an appropriate child-restraint system.”
The changes incorporated into H.B. 1847 are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the American Automobile Association, and the Oklahoma Safe Kids Coalition.
“This legislation is designed to protect children from injury or death if the vehicle in which they are riding is involved in a traffic accident,” said Inman, a father of two young children.
“For years, Oklahoma has mandated that parents buckle up their children, but unfortunately they weren’t required to secure them in a manner that would be the most appropriate for saving their lives,” Inman continued.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says statistics show that a child under the age of 2 involved in a car accident while facing forward has a 75 percent greater chance of being seriously injured or killed. “That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics several years ago established new standards that encourage parents to keep their children rear-facing until at least the age of 2,” Inman said.
Increasing Oklahoma child restraint standards from 6 until the age of 8 will ensure that Oklahoma children will be properly seated in a motor vehicle so as to avoid serious neck injury or being ejected in the event of a wreck, he said.
Inman expressed his gratitude to Sen. Bass “for expertly shepherding the bill through the Senate,” and to the governor for signing the measure.
In his comments on the new law, Bass said, “We know that in Oklahoma alone, the number of children who died or were seriously injured in car accidents could have been cut in half with the proper use of child restraint systems.”
Bass continued, “Some called it ‘nanny state overreach’. I call it a chance to save even just one child’s life. Some called it ‘too prescriptive’. I call it the opportunity to educate parents and caregivers.”
Bass said, “I believe that the ultimate measure of a good public servant is how strongly they stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and how tenaciously they protect the most vulnerable members of our communities. With this bill, we stood up for Oklahoma’s children and I thank Rep. Inman for his role in shepherding this legislation through the House and supporting it all the way to the Governor’s desk.”
“With this bill, we stood up for Oklahoma’s children and I thank Rep. Inman for his role in shepherding this legislation through the House and supporting it all the way to the Governor’s desk.”
School buses, taxicabs, ambulances and other emergency vehicles will be exempt from the new law,” Bass concluded.
“If we’re going to stand up and say kids are vulnerable, we need to put some teeth into the law,” Inman said when his bill was first considered on the House floor in March. “The intent of this law is to save as many lives as possible.”
Motor vehicle wrecks are the leading cause of death among children. The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that more than 9,000 children younger than age 12 died in motor vehicle crashes over the past decade. More than one-third of those children were not “buckled up,” the CDC said.
Nearly 800 children across the nation aged 1 to 11 died in motor vehicle mishaps in 2013, the CDC announced in its Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System; of those 800 children, 26 of them were Oklahomans.
In addition, more than 6,600 Oklahoma children aged 1-11 were passengers in vehicles involved in motor vehicle crashes in 2013; of those children, 28 percent of them suffered injuries, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reported.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of child passenger safety (CPS) laws – and Oklahoma’s CPS is one of the weakest, the CDC contends. Oklahoma’s CPS law covers children aged 0-5 years; children aged 6 to 12, weighing 40 pounds and over, are allowed to ride in the rear seat strapped in with only a lap/shoulder belt. HB 1847 moves Oklahoma into the highest-rated category.
Supporters said their research found that use of a child safety seat reduces the risk of death by 71 percent for infants younger than 1 year of age, and by 54 percent for toddlers aged 1-4. Booster seat use reduces the risk of serious injury among children aged 4 to 8 by 45 percent, compared with seat belt use alone.