Know the law to protect children

Published 2:26 pm Tuesday, August 13, 2013

By JIM MCCLENDON / Guest Columnist

The tragic automobile crash that recently occurred near Guntersville and took the lives of four of our young children highlights both a parent’s worst nightmare, and also a vitally important safety concern.

The pickup truck carrying the children, according to State Troopers, was carrying more than 10 children and flipped on U.S. 431. The press reports also state that witnesses told police the children spilled from the truck as it began flipping, and the truck burst into flames soon afterward.

This accident is truly a horrific tragedy, and we should continue to keep the families and individuals of those involved in our thoughts and prayers. However, we should all take note of this and make further strides towards knowing the law, enforcing the law and protecting our children from tragedies like this in the future.

When I served as chairman of the State Safety Coordinating Committee, we promoted a child safety law that I co-sponsored and that was passed by the Alabama Legislature in 2006. Our committee had evaluated crash and highway fatality data, and then proposed this legislation to help provide our children with needed protection from the safety concerns involved with automobile transportation.

The legislation requires drivers on our streets and roadways to ensure that all children and teens under 15 years old are in seat belts and approved safety restraints.

While this law does not ban an adult from riding in the back of a pickup truck, like the vehicle involved in the Guntersville accident, it does make it unlawful for a driver to allow children under 15 years of age to ride unrestrained, whether inside a motor vehicle or in the back of a pickup truck.

If you see children on our streets and highways riding unrestrained in the back of a truck, please let authorities know immediately. We must also hold our elected officials and police forces accountable to enforce this law. My heart goes out to all those involved in this recent tragedy and I hope that through further awareness and enforcement of this law, we can prevent, avoid and limit accidents involving our most precious commodity, our children.

Dr. Jim McClendon is a state representative for District 50, serving St. Clair and Shelby counties.