Legislature considers child restraint bill, home rule

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 30, 2002

News Editor

The Alabama Legislature has been busy the past two months with issues ranging from tax reform to child restraints in vehicles and local control of schools.

A bill recently passed by the Alabama House of representatives and currently being considered by the Senate would require that children up to a certain weight and height who are passengers in automobiles be restrained in the size appropriate restraint system.

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Instead of requiring that children up to a certain age be restrained, the proposed legislation focuses on a weight and height requirement instead. It states that booster seats should be used until the child weighs 80 pounds or is 29 inches tall.

Representative Alan Boothe said he sees some problems with the bill. "This puts a burden on police officers they don’t need," he said recently.

Boothe said Representative Mack Gipson, who sponsored the bill, indicated that police officers should carry a set of scales and a tape measure in order to ensure that a child is of the appropriate weight and height for the method he or she is being restrained. "My question is if the child is to be weighed, should the scales be certified?"

The bill states that those found in violation will face a $25 fine for each offense. The charges may be dismissed by a judge if proof of acquisition of an appropriate child passenger restraint is provided.

The bill also calls for requiring each state, county and municipal police department to maintain statistical information on traffic stops involving child restraints and report that information monthly to the Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell said the bill has been in committee for the past few days and it was his understanding that it is moving very quickly through the senate.

Governor Don Siegelman has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow local communities to