State Sen. Roland Pederson was very disappointed that a bill that had bipartisan support that would save the lives of children stalled in a House committee, and we are disappointed, too.

Oklahoma is the only state in the country that doesn’t require children to buckle up while riding in the back seat, said Pederson, R-Burlington, the Senate author of SB 339.

In addition to being disappointed, we should be embarrassed.

Oklahoma had a law requiring children ages 8 and older to buckle up while riding in the back seat. It was repealed in 2016. In 2017 and 2018 — following the law’s repeal — more than 24 unrestrained children died in crashes, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reported. More than a thousand other children have been injured statewide in recent years, safety officials said.

State Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, worked in law enforcement 27 years. He has seen what happens to children who are not wearing seat belts.

“It’s a tough bill because some people don’t want the government telling them to buckle their kids up,” Ford said.

State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, said he doesn’t believe it’s the government’s responsibility to mandate that they buckle up youth.

We should all see the importance of wearing a seat belt, especially for younger passengers. If children are unrestrained, not only are they a distraction while they’re bouncing around in the back seat, if they are in a collision, it’s possible they could suffer serious injuries or be killed.

Lawmakers have to write laws to protect people. They have to make the rules for people who won’t take care of their children. That’s why we have laws — to protect the most vulnerable, our children. Ford said he plans to run a similar measure next year. We hope it passes. We need that law.

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