Let Parents Decide

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/01/02/let-parents-decide/

Legislators of the Nanny State are at it again.

This time they want to ban 12-year-olds from the front seat of a car.

A bill to do that almost made it through the Massachusetts Senate toward the tail end of the legislative year. It won’t pass before time runs out Tuesday, January 3, but the sponsors will probably be back at it in the new legislative session.

They shouldn’t.

We get that the purpose is noble: Keeping children safe.  But the means aren’t.

It’s fine to tell parents that children are generally safer riding in the back seat of a car than in the front seat. That’s what the American Automobile Association recommends, and it’s generally a good idea.

But that’s advice. Not a law.

A current state statute requires that children under 8 and less than 4 feet 9 inches tall have to be secured by a child passenger restraint. The new measure would add language keeping pre-teens out of the front seat.

The fine for violating the law is modest ($25) and is not a surchargeable offense, meaning it can’t jack up car insurance rates. But it sends the wrong message.

State government is not primarily responsible for the safety of children. Parents are.

The new bill, Senate 2520, says children under 13 can’t ride in the front seat unless a motor vehicle doesn’t have a front seat (such as a pickup truck) or unless the seats in the rear are already taken by other children under 13.

But there are other circumstances where having a 12-year-old ride in the front seat makes sense. What if a family is moving furniture or other items and all the room in the back is taken? Or what if a parent decides that a drive is the perfect time to have a heart-to-heart talk with a child sitting in the next seat?

Or, more to the point: What if a parent just decides?