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Seat belt bill won't be considered this session

February 06, 2002

Seat belt bill won't be considered this session



By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


Edward Shrader knew that a proposed change in the seat belt law would not bring back his 14-year-old son, who died in a car crash.

But he had hoped that it might make drivers pay more attention to whether the children they're carrying are safely buckled into their seats.

"It could save somebody else's life," the Hagerstown man said.

Shrader learned Tuesday that there will be no legislation, at least not this year.

The House Judiciary Committee killed the bill, which Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, filed on behalf of the family.

Lawmakers on the committee voted not to give families such as the Shraders the right to sue drivers who don't make sure their passengers are wearing seat belts.

His father believes Brandon Michael Shrader would be alive today if he had been wearing his seat belt on Aug. 19, 2000.

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Brandon was riding in the back seat of a friend's car in upper Montgomery County when the car was hit from behind. Brandon was thrown from the car.

Edward Shrader said the family has reached a settlement with the driver who was responsible for the crash.

Shrader said he isn't interested in suing the driver of the car in which Brandon was riding, but viewed the proposal as a way to fix an inconsistency.

While the law says children must be belted, there is no consequence for adults who don't make sure their young passengers have fastened their seat belts.

During a hearing on the bill last week, committee members expressed reservations about the legal ramifications.

It could allow more children to sue parents than is already allowed.

One member of the committee, Del. Donald E. Murphy, R-Baltimore/Howard, said he voted against the bill because it would make drivers liable in situations that are beyond their control.

"As a parent I can't be held totally responsible for whether children in the back seat are buckled at all times," he said.

The committee vote was 17 to 2 against the bill.

Del. David G. Boschert, R-Anne Arundel, said he voted for the bill because he thought it made sense.

"Children, above all, should be given special consideration," he said.

McKee agreed, saying he was disappointed that the bill died.

Shrader said he was not surprised, although he had visions of having the bill named after his son.

"It's tough losing a child. You just don't think you're going to have to bury your kid. It's the hardest thing I ever did in my entire life," he said.

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