In the past week I’ve witnessed multiple violations to what I thought was standard safety for young children in vehicles. I was wrong. I’ve seen the following incidents within days of each other and I’m about ready to pull out my hair in frustration.
1. Three year old girl from my ECFE class riding in a vehicle with only a seatbelt for restraint. I’ve seen it multiple times throughout the day in different vehicles. (Her family also picks up an older sibling when I’m picking up my son from Pre-K.) She is restrained with a seat and shoulder belt in the back seat.
2. Four or five year old boy from my son’s Pre-K class riding in the front seat with only a seat belt with shoulder belt for restraint. Little brother sitting in back in a car seat but nobody else riding in the vehicle. (Therefore no reason for him to have to sit in front.)
3. A young boy and girl around the ages of 7 and 9 riding in the backseat of a car with no seat belts. This vehicle stopped right next to me at a red light at a busy intersection and they were moving all over the back seat, just hanging out and not unrestrained for any particular reason I could see.
And as I see this happening my eyes bug out and I have to restrain myself from wanting to say something. Not because I’m a confrontational person and not because I think I’m the perfect parent. I’ve made my own share of parenting mistakes but it has never even crossed my mind to place my small children in a vehicle without the proper restraint for their age. It seems like a no brainer to me.
I want to ask if they are not properly restrained because they don’t know the current laws or because they don’t care? I’m sure they love their children. Why wouldn’t they say keeping them safe is worth the inconvenience of using a seat or listening to whining about wearing a belt or begging to sit in the front seat?
Child Restraint Laws
I decided to do a little research about the current Child Restraint Laws. In virtually all states, with the exception of Florida, it is against the law to have a child under the age of four not in a car seat and not in a booster seat (or some states car seat) until the age of 8. Most of these guidelines also include height and weight requirements. It is also suggested that children should sit in the back seat until the age of 12. Most states have laws that children or even all citizens must wear seat belts at all times, with a few exceptions.
In my home state of Minnesota I found out the Child Passenger Restraint Law, MN Stat 169.685 included the following:
Children under age 8 and shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall must be secured in a safety seat or booster seat that meets federal safety standards. Children cannot ride in a seat belt alone until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall — whichever comes first. Infants (under 20 pounds and one year of age) must be in a rear-facing safety seat. Law applies to all motor vehicles originally equipped with factory-installed seat belts. Law applies to all seating positions and driver is responsible. Petty misdemeanor fine for violation is $50 (may be waived if violator shows proof of obtaining a safety seat within 14 days). Applies to both residents and non-residents of Minnesota and suspected non-use is a valid basis to stop a motor vehicle.
After reading this, I can’t help but wonder if the child restraint laws are really protecting our children.
If the idea of keeping a child safe isn’t enough to deter some people from breaking the law, will a $50 petty misdemeanor fine with an option to get it waived really keep them from doing it again? That is a pretty light punishment for what I would consider child endangerment.