By Jeff Gallatin
City officials are recommending tightening child restraint laws for children in vehicles being driven in the city.
A proposal that would make the charge a primary offense, allow an officer to file charges for each child in a vehicle who is not in a proper child restraint seat and increase the fine to $150 was unanimously recommended to the full council by council’s Safety Committee at its Oct. 22 meeting.
Currently, the offense is classified under city codes as a secondary one, meaning police officers cannot stop a vehicle for this offense if it is the only traffic or criminal violation being committed. An officer could only file the charge if the officer sees it after stopping a vehicle for another offense. Under the proposal an officer could stop a vehicle if the officer believes the offense is being committed, such as if an officer observed children not properly restrained in a vehicle being driven in the city.
In addition, the proposal also would allow an officer to file a separate charge for each child improperly restrained, meaning if three children all were not in child restraint seats, a charge could be filed for each child. Currently, an officer can only file one charge for the entire vehicle.
Finally, the current range for the fine is from $35 to $75. The proposal would increase the maximum fine up to $150. The child restraint laws currently cover children younger than 4 years old and less than 40 pounds who are being transported in a motor vehicle other than a taxicab or safety vehicle, with additional clauses covering any child who is less than 8 years old and less than 4 feet 9 inches also being covered by the safety codes.
North Olmsted Law Director Michael Gareau said the changes would mirror state laws that were put into effect several years ago.
“It will make the laws stricter within city limits,” he said.
He said as proposed, the legislation is something that could be considered in the North Olmsted Mayor’s Court, which was started earlier this year.
City Council President Nicole Dailey Jones, a sponsor of the legislation, said having stricter laws makes sense.
“We have a lot of vehicle traffic within the city, and we’d like to make sure there are good safeguards in place to protect the children in those vehicles,” she said.
Jones, herself a mother of four, said she realizes small children can be a distraction to drivers unless properly restrained.
“It makes it safer for everybody in the vehicle,” she said.
North Olmsted police Chief Jamie Gallagher said the department is fine with the proposed changes.
“We’re supportive of any legislation which helps promote passenger and vehicle safety,” he said. “If it helps protect small children, we’re glad to have additional tools to help protect them.”
Council is scheduled to consider the legislation at its first meeting in November.