Kids under 5 still must be in safety seats

Kids under 5 still must be in safety seats by Susan Smith Children under five years of age and weighing less than 40 pounds will still have to ride in a child safety seat, a House committee decided Feb. 3.

HB1173 would have omitted language from current law stating that children at least 2 and less 5 years old, weighing less than 40 pounds were required to ride in a child safety restraint system.

The bill would have removed the 40-pound regulation. The bill also would have amended current statute to include an exemption for vehicles made prior to 1966 that do not have seatbelts, vehicles where all child restraint systems and seatbelts were occupied, driver�s licensed in another state or jurisdiction, or if the child�s personal needs were being attended to by someone other than the driver.

�I look at this as a law that is not workable,� Rep. Bill Napoli, R-Rapid City said. �That�s why I brought the bill back today.�

Napoli, the bill�s prime sponsor, said the law was unenforceable because no law enforcement unit in the state carries a scale to measure children not using seat belts or safety seats.

Rep. Christie Fiegen, R-Sioux Falls, one of the original proponents of the law, said striking the 40-pound requirement from the original law was a detriment to child safety.

�Studies have shown that children under 40 pounds are not safe in seat belts,� Fiegen said. �There is abdominal injury, there is back injury.�

She said she could have originally drafted the bill to read 5-year-olds must be in seats, but that was not in the best interest of child safety.

Jeff Holden, director of the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety, had several other problems with the bill.

The only other state allowing out-of-state drivers to ignore child-restraint law is Nebraska. The personal needs definition was also hard to determine because it may be the personal need of a child to be held by its mother while in the vehicle, Holden said. A baby died on Highway 83 near Fort Pierre last year because its mother was breast-feeding it during the time of the accident, Holden said.

�Before I�m tarred and feathered for being against highway safety, I�d like to amend the bill,� Napoli said.

He took out all amendments except the one eliminating the 40-pound requirement. The amendment still didn�t fly with other committee members.

�In all fairness to my friend Rep. Napoli, this is a bad bill,� Rep. Clarence Kooistra, R-Garretson said. �We have a good bill on the books.�

Rep. Kenneth Wetz, R-Newell said he was amazed that the committee was even considering removing the requirement for children under 40 pounds to be in a child restraint seat. Children under five years of age often weigh 40 pounds or more, Wetz said. If the 40-pound restriction were taken out those children would be in the seat.

�I am in utter amazement of the regulatory craze Rep. Napoli is going through,� Rep. Larry Diedrich, R-Elkton said. �I think that kids that are 60 pounds are going to be very uncomfortable traveling in a safety seat. We�re going back to, ?this is the law and we�re going to follow it whether it makes sense or not.� �

The bill was deferred to the 41st legislative day with a vote of 8-5.

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