AUSTIN — The Texas Senate today (Wednesday) passed Senate Bill 60 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, which strengthens current child passenger safety protections. The bill requires that children 7 years and younger, unless they are four-feet nine-inches tall, be secured in a child passenger safety seat while riding in a motor vehicle.”This is a bill that will save lives, preclude tragedies and injuries and qualify Texas for $3.2 million in federal funds while saving the state $17 million in health care expenditures,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Each year more than 1,600 children die in vehicular accidents, which is the leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death among children 14 years and younger. SB 60 will strengthen Texas child passenger safety laws and ensure a greater level of public safety.”
In 2005 the legislature directed the Texas Department of Public Safety Committee on Child Passenger Safety to examine the need for a booster seat law in Texas. The committee advised Texas to pass a law based on national recommendations. SB 60 reflects the committee’s recommended language.
The DPS Child Passenger Safety Committee determined that SB 60 would reduce Texas health care expenditures by more than $17 million and that that an average $30 booster seat generates $2,000 in cost benefit savings. What’s more, by raising child passenger safety standards, Texas also will be eligible for $3.2 million in federal transportation grants each year from 2008 to 2009.
Current law requires only children who are younger than five and shorter than 36 inches be secured properly in child-passenger safety seats during the operation of a vehicle. Children between the ages of five and eight and who are between 36 and 57 inches represent an age group that is at great risk of death or severe injury due to the gap in current law. SB 60 will eliminate this gap and strengthen current child passenger safety protections.
Originally SB 60, as recommended unanimously by the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, included a four-month temporary grace period to inform Texas drivers about this new measure and a fine for non-compliance between $100 and $200. Senator Zaffirini today amended the bill to extend the warning period from four months to one year and reduce the penalty to $25, instead of up to $200.
“I amended SB 60 because we want to educate parents about the importance of booster seats and child passenger safety, not punish them,” Senator Zaffirini said. “A one year grace period will allow the state to inform more families and increase the impact this bill will have on public safety.”