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Should Pa.'s child-seat laws be updated? - abc27 WHTM

Should Pa.'s child-seat laws be updated?

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

According to PennDOT, five children under the age of four died in car crashes between 2007 and 2011 because they were not properly restrained.

Authorities said last fall, a 2-year-old Midstate boy added to that statistic. It is bringing the state's laws about child safety seats into question.

"He loved to eat. His favorite food was hot dogs and French fries or chicken nuggets. He was just so full of life, so playful, so happy," said Latisha Diaz, Julius Ward's mother.

On October 10, 2012, Diaz's world came to a halt. Julius was in the backseat of his uncle's car when police said his uncle fell asleep at the wheel and crashed.

"I got a call back from her and when I answered the phone, it was the nurse from HMC telling me that - her exact words were, 'Julie has been trying to get a hold of you to tell you that your son is dead,' " said Diaz. "My first reaction was, 'what the hell are you talking about?' I lost it. I didn't know what to do."

Julius lived to be only 2 years old. Authorities said he died because his uncle did not buckle him in properly.

"If you don't do it properly, they're just gonna be a projectile, and that's what happened in this case. The child went forward, hit the back of the passenger side seat," said Graham Hetrick, Dauphin County coroner. "The harness going over him certainly would've restrained him from going into the back of the seat."

Police said Julius's uncle put the child seat down without anchoring it to the car seat. He them put Julius on top of the five-point restraint and proceeded to buckle him in with the regular car seat belt. Experts said that is textbook for what you should not do.

The maximum penalty for not properly restraining a child is a $100 fine.

"Nobody who violates that can face a penalty," said Fran Chardo, First Deputy District Attorney of Dauphin County. "In fact, it's not even admissible in court. So the fact that the child wasn't restrained would be excluded from evidence not only in a criminal proceeding, but also in a civil proceeding."

"That person could go out, buy a new car seat, bring it to the police and say, 'Look, I bought a car seat' and the citation would go away," Chardo said. "Then, they could return the car seat. It is a ridiculous, ridiculous law."

"I want him to spend the rest of his life in jail," Diaz said of her son's uncle. "I believe you took my son's life, so your life should be taken as well."

Diaz wants the law, which was created in the 1980's, to be updated.

"I think that to change the law and update it might be a very good thing, but that's not retrospective. That doesn't take away the death of a child," said Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland/York). "I'm a big proponent of more education and that kind of thing to do the right thing to start with."

The uncle was never charged for a crime. abc27 News contacted him, but he declined comment.

Diaz said she plans to rally at the state Capitol and ask lawmakers to update the law.

 

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