John Proos: Closing loophole in safety seat law protects kidsPublished 8:48am Thursday, May 30, 2013
By Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph
Michigan’s child car safety seat law was enacted to ensure the safety of every child. However, a loophole was being taken advantage of by some drivers — leaving some children unprotected.
If a police officer issued a citation to a driver for not having a young child properly secured in a child safety seat, the driver could have the ticket and fine automatically revoked if the driver later provided proof that they have a car seat.
Unfortunately, some courts saw the same people come to the court protesting a fine numerous times. In each instance, the person had proof of a child safety seat, only to return it to the store or a relative after their citation and fees were waived.
The governor recently signed my bill to ensure the safety of young children by eliminating that abuse of the law. Now judges have discretion concerning waiving the fine and any costs associated with child seat violations.
Public Act 35 of 2013 allows leeway for first-time offenders who actually buy and use a car seat to protect their child while also sending a statement that Michigan is serious about the safety of child passengers in our state.
I sponsored this reform after hearing about the abuses from Southwest Michigan law enforcement officials, such as Berrien County Magistrate Steve Doak.
After my bill was signed, Doak said: “I have worked five years trying to get this changed, including testifying in Lansing. Luckily, Senator Proos believed in the change and would not back down.”
By ensuring the punishment of drivers who endanger child passengers, we are more likely to change their behavior and possibly save the life of a child.
The signing of the new law comes during the annual Click It or Ticket campaign to encourage seat belt use. The program runs from May 20 to June 2 and combines well-marked enforcement zones and advertising to remind motorists about the state’s seat belt law and the importance of buckling up.
Michigan law requires all drivers and passengers age 15 and younger to be buckled up. Children must be in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall.
In Michigan last year, during the seat belt enforcement period, there were 8,125 tickets written to people who were not wearing seat belts and 213 tickets for child restraint violations.
Nearly half of vehicle occupants who die in crashes are unbelted. It is not just about raising awareness about the law; it’s about saving lives.
Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien and Cass counties and most of Van Buren County.