OK lawmaker pushing for legislation to require seat belts for children under 16

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — The State of Oklahoma does not require passengers in the back seat of cars between the ages of 8 and 18 years old to wear a seat belt.

That’s because it was inadvertently left out of the law when it was re-written several years ago to require rear-facing car seats for children up to 2 years old.

In 2017, 17 children between the ages of 9 and 16 years old died in car crashes, according to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

Jeanne Draughon is a nurse and a member of the Safe Kids Coalition. She’s been pushing for legislation to require seat belts for children between 8 and 18 years old who are passengers in the back seat.

“I have taken care of quadriplegics, paraplegics from car accidents, brain injuries from car accidents so I am passionate from seeing when you are unrestrained what happens in a car,” she said. “Anything that is not bolted down in a car becomes a projectile.”

Senate Bill 681 proposes the following change to the law:

“Every passenger sixteen (16) years of age and younger in the back seat of a passenger vehicle shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety seat belt, unless otherwise provided for in a child passenger restraint system as required pursuant to Section 11-1112 of this title.”

Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington, wrote the bill and it’s his second time trying to pass this law.

“Really, the pushback, [is], ‘Parents ought already to be doing this and so why do we need the government to step in and try to do something?’” he said. “And we are the only state in the union that doesn’t have this. Since I ran this bill, the statistics I have are another 10 people have died. Now, not necessarily, that they’d had been strapped in, that they would have been saved but the chances would have increased dramatically because statistics show that seat belts save.”

Draughon said the law would become habit.

“If we teach our children when they’re young that every time you get in the car, you buckle up, it becomes part of their routine. And so, they don’t question it when they get to be older. It’s just a matter of fact that they buckle up when they get in a car,” she said.

She says if the law passes, police could stop a car with an unrestrained child in it, and possibly save lives.

State law says children under 4 in the back seat and must be restrained in a car seat. If they are under 2, that car seat must be rear-facing.

Children younger than 8 must sit in a child restraint system or a booster seat.