COLUMBIA — South Carolina may raise the minimum age required to ride in the front seat from 6 to 13.
In Georgia, the front seat is off limits to children younger than 8 who are less less than 57 inches tall.
A bill introduced by Beaufort Republican Rep. Shannon Erickson would make a host of automobile safety improvements to South Carolina’s notoriously lax law, bringing it from one the nation’s weakest to one of the strongest. The proposal calls for various increases in child-restraint requirements.
“I see the results of devastating motor vehicle accidents almost every day. I have had patients die in motor vehicle accidents,” said pediatrician Deborah Greenhouse, immediate past president of the SC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, also representing the SC Children’s Hospital Collaborative.
“I have had a patient the intensive care unit for weeks with numerous fractions, a halo on her head and bolts in her head and her neck.”
Greenhouse, addressing a House committee Wednesday, said the deaths and injuries can be prevented and presented data to back up her support for Erickson’s bill, H. 4869.
Among them: In South Carolina, an elementary school study found that 49 percent of children left the school pick-up line incorrectly restrained; Nearly 34 percent left school property not restrained in any way.
Car seat use reduces by 71 percent the risk of death for infants less than 1 year old by nearly 54 percent for toddlers 1 to 4 years in age.
Instead of sending the bill forward committee, the members voted to gather more research on how other states address the issue.
The sticking point was the bill’s section raising the minimum age from 6 to 13 for front-seat passengers, an increase Rep. Walt McLeod called “kind of ludicrous.”
The Little Mountain Democrat urged his colleagues to keep the legal age at 6 and emphasized that a drivers license may be obtained age 15.
“It looks to me a little odd to require someone to sit in the back seat until they’re 13,” McLeod said. “Two years thereafter they can waltz in to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a beginner’s permit.”
Greenhouse said statistics support the position of keeping children younger than 13 from riding in the front seat.
“Death rates and injury rates are decrease by 40-70 percent in that age group,” she said. “Once you got above 13, the different wasn’t there any more.”