By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state House Transportation Committee on Tuesday voted to kill a bill seeking to raise the mandatory age for toddlers to ride in rear-facing car seats from 1 to 2.
Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville said his bill (HB1468) was aimed at bringing Tennessee up to date with recommendations of physicians and auto manufacturers, and ensuring that “kids up to the age of 2 — whose necks and bones have not fully developed — are protected.”
Rhonda Phillippi,, the executive director of Tennessee Emergency Medical Services for Children, told the committee that data indicates that children under age 2 are 75 percent safer in rear-facing seats.
“Having the seat backward makes the crash forces go across the back of the car seat, instead of the soft tissues of the child and their underdeveloped bone structure,” she said.
But the panel voted 9-8 to study the issue after the Legislature adjourns for the year, ending the progress of a bill that just weeks ago was poised for Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature.
The measure had passed the Senate unanimously and the House on a 68-19 vote before concerns about whether it also increased the booster seat requirement from age 8 to age 12 caused it to be sent back to the committee.
Clemmons had argued that the 12-year-old rule is already state law unless children are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. But House Republicans argued the most common interpretation by law enforcement and the public is that the booster seat requirement ends at age 8.
Clemmons removed the language about the booster seats from the bill, but it wasn’t enough to persuade skeptical Republicans, who supported House Majority Whip Timothy Hill’s motion to put off the bill.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” the Blountville Republican said. “Because I feel like from a perception standpoint and a reality standpoint, there’s just been a tremendous amount of discussion, inaccuracies and questions.”
Clemmons expressed dismay at the refusal to take up the bill again after he removed the provisions that had raised concerns.
“I certainly find it concerning that a leader of the other party wants to continue to threaten the safety of children,” he said.
Clemmons argued that the “bill has no partisanship whatsoever, and is all about public safety — children’s safety on top of that.”