A D.C. City Council committee is expected to act today on a bill to require the use of safety restraints for children up to 6 years old in private vehicles registered in the District.
The Child Restraint Act, introduced earlier this year by council member John Ray (D-At Large), would impose a $25 fine on drivers for each violation.
Under the bill, children up to 3 years of age would be required to ride in car safety seats. Children from 3 to 6 years would be required to use the safety seats or regular seat belts. Police would enforce the legislation by issuing citations.
The bill, modeled after existing laws in about 20 states, exempts buses, taxis and rail systems from the requirements. It would go into effect next July if the full council approves the measure, as expected, and it passes the 30-day layover requirement in Congress.
"The reason these laws have been sprouting up -- first in Tennessee in 1978 -- is that motor vehicle accidents are the leading killer of young children," said Barry Fogel, a legal and legislative aide for the council's committee on transportation and environmental affairs. Fogel said about 10,000 children are killed nationwide in traffic accidents each year and hundreds of thousands are injured each year.
The committee is scheduled to vote on the bill at a 2 p.m. meeting today at the District Building.
Fogel said national safety experts have reported a 50 percent reduction in deaths to children in Tennessee since its law passed, while other states have had about a 75 percent decrease in injuries to small children.
Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware have enacted similar laws. A similar bill in the Maryland legislature failed last year, Fogel said.
Ray and other city officials hope the bill also will publicize Project Safe Child, a little-known public service lending program run by the Department of Transportation and Children's Hospital.
Project Safe Child rents car safety seats for as little as $5 a year. The seats are available on a daily or weekend basis for residents or tourists who need the car seats for only a short time.
The transportation and environmental services committee will hold a public hearing tomorrow on a bill that would require the city to provide trash collection services to the city's more than 18,000 condominium apartments and 8,000 cooperative apartments, which now must pay private firms for such collections.
The bill, introduced by David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), has been strongly backed by many condominium and cooperative tenant associations that now pay private hauling firms for the service that individual homeowners receive as part of tax-paid city services. Many of the groups have written letters supporting the legislation and requesting a chance to testify at the hearing, which will be held at 2 p.m. in the council chambers at the District Building.
Town house projects, rental apartment buildings and office buildings are required to contract for private refuse collection. Condominium and cooperative owners contend that they pay real estate taxes just as more traditional homeowners do and should be given equal city services.
A spokesman for the committee said several private hauling firms, which now contract for trash services, have expressed opposition to the measure.
Mayor Marion Barry, in a letter to the council earlier this year before the legislation was introduced, said he was generally opposed to the expansion of city services because it would "adversely impact on the private collection businesses, many of whom are minority businesses that have developed a capability in the field."
Barry's office has not commented on the specific legislation, a committee aide said.
Council staff members said city environmental services officials have estimated the cost of the program at about $4.7 million initially and $1.8 million a year thereafter. The council staffs have indicated they believe those costs are overstated.