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Bill would close loophole, require kids ages 8-13 to wear seat belts in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY - It is currently legal for children between the ages of 8 and 13 to ride in the back seat of a motor vehicle without a seat belt, but a new bill aims to change that.

"I said what? That's crazy! How did that happen? I don't know. It's a loophole, I guess. Surely it was not intentional," Senator Ervin Yen said, recalling the moment he heard about the bill.

He now plans to introduce House Bill 3026 in the Senate.

As written by Representative Emily Virgin, the bill would require every driver to provide protection of children under the age of 14 in a motor vehicle by using a seat belt or child passenger restraint system.

"It's a no-brainer to me," Senator Yen said.

According to AAA Oklahoma, in the last five years, more than 5,000 children between the ages of 8 to 13 have been killed or hurt in crashes in our state.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office,  660 of them were not wearing a seat belt or in a car seat.

"Our beautiful children's lives are at risk," said Leslie Gamble of AAA Oklahoma.

The bill passed the House with a vote of 51-41.

We spoke with Representative Todd Russ, who voted against it.

He says he believes the laws we have now are sufficient and he has yet to have any complaints about them. His concern is what adding new regulations could bring.

"I heard a mom, a single mom, had a child in a seat belt, didn't meet the legal requirements of the attachments and by the time they got through citing all the violations it was over $900 in fines for a seat belt violation," said Representative Russ. "It wasn't that they weren't buckled up, they weren't buckled up correctly."

He says he doesn't oppose buckling up, just what a law like this could bring.

"I'm here to look out for them and certainly be responsible and safe, but not so over-regulated that it's a hardship more than a safety," Rep. Russ said.

The fine for a violation would be $50.00. Revenue would be used by the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office to promote the use of child restraint systems.

The bill would not require children to be buckled up if they have medical conditions that do not allow them to be in a seat belt or safety seat as long as the driver can provide written documentation from a doctor.