By Stephen Dow
The Sheridan Press
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
SHERIDAN — A piece of legislation designed to increase child safety on Wyoming roads is being considered by the Wyoming Legislature’s Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs committee this interim session.
Proposed legislation 23-LSO-0025
All who do not comply with this requirement will face a fine of no more than $100 for the first offense and no more than $200 for the second offense, according to the proposed legislation. The $100 fee for a first offense can be waived upon providing proof of the purchase and installation of a proper child safety restraint.
Existing Wyoming law requires children younger than 9 years of age to be “properly secured in a child safety restraint system in a seat of the vehicle other than the front seat” but does not require children younger than 2 to be restrained in a rear-facing car seat.
Currently, fines for improperly restrained children are set at $50 for a first offense and $100 for a second offense.
Car crashes remain one of the most common sources of death for children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2019, 608 child passengers died in motor vehicle crashes and more than 91,000 were injured.
Always buckling children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats and seat belts reduces death and serious injuries by up to 80%, the CDC said.
For those younger than age 2, the CDC recommends the use of rear-facing car seats as a way to absorb most of the crash forces and support the baby’s head, neck and spine in the event of a crash. When young children ride forward-facing, their heads are thrown forward, which could potentially result in spine and head injuries.
Currently, 16 states — plus the District of Columbia — require rear-facing seats for passengers younger than age 2.
The proposed changes to the child restraint legislation are not new to the Wyoming Legislature.
During the 2021 general session, the legislature considered an identical bill known as House Bill 23. While the bill failed to pass the House during third reading with a vote of 26-34, many legislators, including Rep. Kevin O’Hearn, R-Mills, expressed support for the bill at the time.
“This bill is very important, not only to Wyoming, but to the United States, as more kids are killed and severely injured in vehicle accidents than in any other matter,” O’Hearn said.
23-LSO-004 was scheduled to be considered and discussed by the transportation committee during their meeting in Rock Springs this week, but, due to a busy schedule, the committee postponed its consideration until its next meeting, which will be held from Nov. 3-4 in Cheyenne.
If the bill draft is approved during that meeting, it could proceed to the 2023 general session this spring.