There’s a new proposal at the statehouse aimed at teens and pre-teens who’re riding in the back seat. The Iowa Senate’s Transportation Committee has unanimously approved a bill that would expand the mandatory seat belt usage law and make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be riding in the backseat without a seat belt.
Under current law, all front-seat occupants are to be buckled in, and those under the age of 10 who are in the back seat are to buckle up, too, or face a fine if a trooper or cop catches them not wearing their seat belt. Senator Tom Hancock, a Democrat from Epworth, says wearing a seat belt in the back seat is just as important as wearing one when you’re in the front.
"Lap and shoulder belts in the backseat of a car — when they are used, they’re 44 percent effective in reducing fatalities," Hancock says. "When used in passenger vans and sports utility vehicles they are 73 percent effective in reducing fatalities." Hancock says he’s backing the bill because of personal experience.
"In my many years as serving in public safety as a paramedic and a fire chief and that type of thing, we have folks…in our community…in wheelchairs and I firmly believe that if they would have been belted in in the backseat, maybe they would have had a different outcome in their life," Hancock says. Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, voted for the bill but he predicts cops and troopers will have a hard time figuring out who’s buckled up in the backseat.
"I mean how far do we go in trying to protect, you know, Iowans," Zaun says. "I do know that seat belts save lives. I just hate mandates." While Zaun did not oppose the bill in committee, he’s holding out the possibility he may vote against it if the full senate considers the change.