Government Transportation

PA House Passes Bill To Close Loophole In Seatbelt Law

Under current state law, children under 8 don’t have to be in a car seat in some trucks.

By Trebor Maitin Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Traffic on the Newtown Bypass. Credit: Google Maps

Young children are not required to be fastened in car seats in some common pickup trucks, according to Pennsylvania law. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would change that.

“It’s really something that’s pretty wild to me that we don’t have these protections for certain vehicles,” State Rep. Joe McAndrew (D-Allegheny), the bill’s prime sponsor, said in brief remarks on the House floor Wednesday. “Adding these protections, making sure our kids are safe on the roads, is very vital.”

Pennsylvania drivers, in most passenger vehicles, must secure children under 8 with a properly fitting car seat or booster seat until the child outgrows it. The use of car seats and seat belts is not required in trucks weighing more than 7,000 pounds, however. This means that drivers of some diesel variants of heavy-duty Chevrolet, GMC and Ford trucks, in addition to the all-electric GMC Hummer EV and Chevrolet Silverado EV, are not required to buckle in their young occupants.

McAndrew’s legislation, if it were to become law, would apply the current seat belt and car seat laws to all road-going trucks with passenger compartments. Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Lawrence) opposed the measure because of what he said were its broad applications.

Automobile manufacturers’ “work trucks are not built to haul kids, I can tell you that with some of my real estate work as well as agriculture,” Bernstine said. “It’s a well-intentioned bill that is something that ultimately would not be helpful.”

Pennsylvania’s motor vehicle code defines a truck as a motor vehicle “primarily used for the transportation of property,” including those with removable seats. It’s not clear if SUVs are included in that definition, or if a pickup truck used for commuting and other non-commercial purposes would meet the definition. 

PennDOT did not reply to a request for clarification on the rule by press time.

The bill passed without debate by a 124-78 margin. All Democrats and about a fifth of Republicans voted in favor.

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