Senator Schiavoni introduces legislation to strengthen seatbelt - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -


Senator Schiavoni introduces legislation to strengthen seatbelt laws for children

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COLUMBIANA, Ohio - A new law is being considered that would make it a primary offense for any child 15 and under to ride in a motor vehicle without a seatbelt.

This comes after 21 News first pointed out a "deadly loophole" in Ohio law, following the tragic accident in Columbiana County that killed 3 people including, 11-year-old Addisyn Benzel of Carrollton.

Addisyn's mother Theresa Benzel tells 21 News, "Addisyn's always the person that wanted to help people.  So when I heard this it was almost her way of working through Senator Schiavoni to help people."

Theresa and Tim Benzel lost their only daughter, 11-year-old Addisyn back on January 19th when the overcrowded Chevy Equinox she was riding in with family friends was hit head-on by another car.  Addisyn died after being thrown from the cargo area where she was sitting with 2 others.  No safety restraints were available.

"The statistics are out there that if she would have had a seatbelt on, there's a better chance she would have survived that accident," Theresa Benzel said.

21 News investigated and learned of the "deadly loophole" -- that there is no law in the state of Ohio that prohibits children or anyone else from riding in the rear cargo area of a vehicle.

So State Senator Joe Schiavoni went to work with the Benzel's,  Lieutenant Joe Dragavich, the Commander of the Lisbon Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and leaders with the Ohio State Highway Patrol in Columbus to try and close that loophole.

Senator Schiavoni has now introduced the "Child Safety Restraint Bill" or "Senate Bill 302."

The proposed law seeks to make it a primary offense if a child 15 years old or under is not wearing a seatbelt, and it gives law enforcement the ability to pull a car over when children are visibly not strapped in.

Schiavoni who represents Columbiana County and the 33rd District says, "This is not political. It seems necessary. It's something that's needed. It's something than can be used as a tool to teach young people, even young people that can't drive yet."

As for Tim and Theresa Benzel, they hope to see Senate Bill 302 become law in memory of Addisyn.   ...A reflection of the legacy her young life left behind.

"It's just ironic through this that she's going to save somebody else's life," Theresa Benzel said.

On Tuesday, the Benzel's and Senator Schiavoni traveled to Columbus to meet with the Chair of the Transportation Committee.

That's where the first hearing and vote on the issue will take place.   The committee will not meet again until early May.

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