Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills to improve safety standards for car seats, education for foster care children

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that will improve education and safety for children across the state.

The legislation will improve education for children within foster care and update safety guidelines for car seat restraints.

“Today, we are taking more extensive action to further the safety of every Michigan child. From safe transportation to providing a guaranteed and quality education for all children within the foster care system,” said Whitmer. “Getting this done will further the success of all Michigan children and keep them safe. Let’s keep working together to build a brighter and safer future in our state.”

Rep. Stephanie A. Young (D-Detroit) sponsored House Bill 4676, which amends the Foster Care and Adoption Services Act.

The bill will ensure that the education for children in foster care aligns with the Michigan Merit Curriculum standards. It will also allow these children to get educational records in the same way that students not in foster care do.

“This is a significant milestone for our foster care youth and a testament to our belief that every child in Michigan, regardless of their circumstances, should have equal opportunity to achieve academic success,” said Young. “When I heard the heartbreaking stories of foster youth who were working hard at their studies, only to discover their caretakers had given them busy work that wouldn’t count toward graduation, I knew I had to act. By ensuring the educational materials that foster kids receive meets the standards of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, we’re making changes that will help uplift the future of our kids. I’m so proud to have led this effort and thank all of the parents, educators and community members who joined together with me to make this happen.”

House Bill 4511, which was sponsored by Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor), amends the Michigan Vehicle code, updating the child car seat restraint requirements to align with the federal standards.

Under this bill, a child under 12 years old or younger would have to be positioned in the correct child restraint system in the rear seat of the vehicle, if it has a rear seat, and if all other seats are not taken by children.

Previously, this applied to children under four years old, and any child four to seven years old that was under four feet nine inches tall.

“I am happy this bill crossed the finish line after the coalition has been trying for the past few terms. As a mother, I know how important it is to have clear and concise safety guidance when it comes to our kids,” said Rheingans. “It has taken 15 years to update safety seat laws in our state, and I’m thrilled Michigan will be aligned with the most recent federal and industry standards. Parents will now better understand when it is safe to move their child from one seat to the next, with less confusion.”

There are also different requirements based on the age and height of a child.

A child must be in a rear-facing restraint system until they are at least two years old or have reached the height/weight limit of the restraint system set by the manufacturer. After that, they must be in a forward-facing restraint system until they are at least five years old or have reached the weight or height limit put in place by the manufacturer.

Then, after meeting the above requirements, a child needs to be in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are at least eight years old or at least four feet nine inches tall.

Any child who is eight years old, or at least four feet nine inches tall, but still under 13 years old needs to be restrained with a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt. They can be in a booster seat until the manufacturer’s weight/height requirements are reached.

They also should be in a rear seat unless children take all seats or the vehicle doesn’t have rear seats.

Also, under House Bill 4511, any child who is at least 13 but under 16, and is being transported by a driver, would need to be restrained in a properly fastened seatbelt.

The bill also eliminates a requirement for the seatbelt law that was added in 1999.

“‘House Bill 4511 also would eliminate a requirement that the secretary of state engage an independent organization to conduct a study to determine the effect of the primary enforcement of the seat belt law on the number of incidents of police harassment of motor vehicle operators,” according to the legislative analysis. “This requirement was added in 1999, when the seat belt law was made subject to primary enforcement, and required a report to be made to the legislature by June 30, 2001, and annually thereafter. The bill would revise related provisions to refer to “inappropriate enforcement” of the seat belt law, rather than “police harassment.”

Another bill, House Bill 4512, also amends section 907 of the Michigan Vehicle Code. It allows a court to waive a fine or assessment against someone who violated the child restraint laws and received a civil infraction if they show proof of obtaining, buying, or renting the correct child restraint before their appearance date.

With the new bill, the person must also show that they received education from a “certified passenger safety technician.”

This article was originally published on CBSNews.com

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