Oklahoma Representative Ross Ford (R-Broken Arrow) announced Wednesday the filing of House Bill 2791, legislation he authored that would strengthen seatbelt laws for people 17 and younger.
Oklahoma state law currently requires only children 8 or younger to wear a seatbelt while riding in the back seat on state roads. Ford's bill would also require children 17 and younger to wear seatbelts while riding in the back seat.
"We have, you know, just a hole in the center of the seatbelt law," Ford said.
The former police officer called the lack of including those aged 8-17 in the law an "oversight" and a "mistake." Ford said he learned about the issue last year when House Bill 1936 would have modified child passenger restraint laws.
Ford has also worked with AAA, Safe Kids Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to draft the legislation. The bill is also supported by the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the Oklahoma Hospital Association, chiefs of police organizations throughout the state and others.
AAA ranks Oklahoma worst in the nation in protecting children in car crashes. They also found the leading cause for death and injury to those 8 and older in the state was car crashes.
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office found 16 children were killed and 67 were injured when not wearing seatbelts in 2017.
Leslie Gamble of AAA Oklahoma said if the bill passed, drivers who fail to buckle up children 17 and younger could face a $50 fine and court cost which amounts to $232.