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Substitute House Bill No. 5537

Public Act No. 07-134

AN ACT CONCERNING WHEELCHAIR TRANSFER SAFETY.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 14-100a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2007):

(a) No new passenger motor vehicle may be sold or registered in this state unless equipped with at least two sets of seat safety belts for the front and rear seats of the motor vehicle, which belts comply with the requirements of subsection (b) of this section. The anchorage unit at the attachment point shall be of such construction, design and strength as to support a loop load strength of not less than four thousand pounds for each belt.

(b) No seat safety belt may be sold for use in connection with the operation of a motor vehicle on any highway of this state unless it is so constructed and installed as to have a loop strength through the complete attachment of not less than four thousand pounds, and the buckle or closing device shall be of such construction and design that after it has received the aforesaid loop belt load it can be released with one hand with a pull of less than forty-five pounds.

(c) (1) The operator of and any front seat passenger in a motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating not exceeding ten thousand pounds or fire fighting apparatus originally equipped with seat safety belts complying with the provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, Section 571. 209, as amended from time to time, shall wear such seat safety belt while the vehicle is being operated on the highways of this state, except that a child six years of age and under shall be restrained as provided in subsection (d) of this section. Each operator of such vehicle shall secure or cause to be secured in a seat safety belt any passenger seven years of age or older and under sixteen years of age.

(2) The provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection shall not apply to (A) any person whose physical disability or impairment would prevent restraint in such safety belt, provided such person obtains a written statement from a licensed physician containing reasons for such person's inability to wear such safety belt and including information concerning the nature and extent of such condition. Such person shall carry the statement on his or her person or in the motor vehicle at all times when it is being operated, or (B) an authorized emergency vehicle, other than fire fighting apparatus, responding to an emergency call or a motor vehicle operated by a rural letter carrier of the United States postal service while performing his or her official duties or by a person engaged in the delivery of newspapers.

(3) Failure to wear a seat safety belt shall not be considered as contributory negligence nor shall such failure be admissible evidence in any civil action.

(4) On and after February 1, 1986, any person who violates the provisions of this subsection shall have committed an infraction and shall be fined fifteen dollars. Points may not be assessed against the operator's license of any person convicted of such violation.

(d) (1) Any person who transports a child six years of age and under or weighing less than sixty pounds, in a motor vehicle on the highways of this state shall provide and require the child to use a child restraint system approved pursuant to regulations adopted by the Department of Motor Vehicles in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54. Any person who transports a child seven years of age or older and weighing sixty or more pounds, in a motor vehicle on the highways of this state shall either provide and require the child to use an approved child restraint system or require the child to use a seat safety belt. As used in this subsection, "motor vehicle" does not mean a bus having a tonnage rating of one ton or more. Failure to use a child restraint system shall not be considered as contributory negligence nor shall such failure be admissible evidence in any civil action.

(2) Any person who transports a child under one year of age or weighing less than twenty pounds in a motor vehicle on the highways of this state shall provide and require the child to ride rear-facing in a child restraint system approved pursuant to regulations that the Department of Motor Vehicles shall adopt in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54.

(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection, any person who transports a child four years of age or older in a student transportation vehicle, as defined in section 14-212, on the highways of this state shall either provide and require the child to use an approved child restraint system or require the child to use a seat safety belt. Any person who transports a child under four years of age weighing less than forty pounds in a student transportation vehicle on the highways of this state shall provide and require the child to use a child restraint system approved pursuant to regulations adopted by the Department of Motor Vehicles in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54.

(4) No person shall restrain a child in a booster seat unless the motor vehicle is equipped with a safety seat belt that includes a shoulder belt and otherwise meets the requirement of subsection (b) of this section.

(5) Any person who violates the provisions of subdivision (1), (2), (3) or (4) of this subsection shall, for a first violation, have committed an infraction; for a second violation, be fined not more than one hundred ninety-nine dollars; and, for a third or subsequent violation, be guilty of a class A misdemeanor. The commissioner shall require any person who has committed a first or second violation of the provisions of this subsection to attend a child car seat safety course offered or approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The commissioner may, after notice and an opportunity for a hearing, suspend for a period of not more than two months the motor vehicle operator's license of any person who fails to attend or successfully complete the course.

(e) (1) Any person who transports an individual who remains in a wheelchair while being transferred into and out of a vehicle, in any motor vehicle on the highways of this state, shall provide and require the use of a device designed to secure individuals in wheelchairs while transferring such individuals from the ground to the vehicle and from the time the motor vehicle is brought to a stop until such individuals are transferred from the vehicle to the ground. Such device shall be located in the motor vehicle at all times. The Commissioner of Motor Vehicles may, after consultation with the departments of Transportation and Public Health, establish regulations to implement the provisions of this act.

(2) The following motor vehicles registered in this state for the first time on or after the effective date of this section that transport individuals who remain in wheelchairs while being transported, shall, in addition to the requirements of subdivision (1) of this subsection, install or provide and require the use of a device that secures the wheelchair to the motor vehicle's mechanical lift or otherwise prevents or seeks to prevent an individual in a wheelchair from falling from such mechanical lift or motor vehicle: (A) Motor vehicles in livery service, as defined in section 13b-101, (B) service buses, as defined in subdivision (77) of section 14-1, (C) invalid coaches, as defined in subdivision (11) of section 19a-175, (D) vanpool vehicles, as defined in subdivision (94) of section 14-1, (E) school buses, as defined in subdivision (73) of section 14-1, (F) motor buses, as defined in subdivision (47) of section 14-1, (G) student transportation vehicles, as defined in subdivision (8) of section 14-212, and (H) camp vehicles, as defined in subdivision (98) of section 14-1. The provisions of this subsection shall also apply to all motor vehicles used by municipal, volunteer and commercial ambulance services, rescue services and management services, as defined in subdivision (19) of section 19a-175.

(3) Violation of any provision of this subsection is an infraction.

[(e)] (f) The commissioner shall administer the provisions of this section.

Sec. 2. Section 13b-105 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2007):

The Department of Transportation may, with or without hearing, issue temporary and permanent livery permits to applicants for the express purpose of providing reasonable livery service to handicapped persons and elderly persons on regular or irregular routes where the department finds no existing service or that the existing service is not adequate to properly serve the special needs of elderly persons and handicapped persons. Temporary authority shall not extend over a period of more than sixty days. In determining the special needs of the handicapped and elderly the department may take into consideration the convenience and the physical and mental frailties of, and the care, safety and protection necessary for the best interest of, the handicapped and elderly and the general public. No applicant shall be issued a temporary or permanent permit unless such applicant's motor vehicle meets the requirements of subsection (e) of section 14-100a, as amended by this act. Applicants who were issued a temporary or permanent permit prior to the effective date of this section shall comply with the requirements of subsection (e) of section 14-100a, as amended by this act, not later than the effective date of this section.

Sec. 3. Subsection (d) of section 14-103 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2007):

(d) Each service bus shall be inspected for safety before its initial registration, in accordance with a schedule to be adopted by the commissioner. Each such service bus shall pass inspection before each renewal of registration. Any service bus that transports individuals in wheelchairs shall meet the requirements of subsection (e) of section 14-100a, as amended by this act, in order to pass inspection. The fee for each such inspection shall be forty dollars, except there shall be no fee for inspection of a service bus owned by the state or a municipality. The commissioner may use the services of any motor vehicle dealer or repairer licensed, in accordance with section 14-52, to conduct a required service bus inspection, provided any fee charged by such dealer or repairer shall not exceed forty dollars, or, if the vehicle inspected has a gross vehicle weight rating in excess of twenty-six thousand pounds, eighty dollars.

Sec. 4. Subsection (a) of section 14-275 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2007):

(a) The term "school bus" means any motor bus painted, constructed, equipped and registered as hereinafter provided, which is regularly used for transporting school children to and from school or school activities whether or not for compensation or under contract to provide such service. No vehicle shall be registered as a school bus unless it complies with all requirements of sections 14-275 to 14-281, inclusive, as to color, markings, equipment and inspection, and each such vehicle shall be inspected prior to such registration in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. The commissioner or the commissioner's designee may also conduct random, unannounced inspections of any registered school bus. Any school bus that transports individuals in wheelchairs shall meet the requirements of subsection (e) of section 14-100a, as amended by this act, in order to pass inspection. The provisions of said sections requiring other vehicles to stop at the signal of the operator of a registered school bus shall not apply to a signal by the operator of any vehicle not registered as a school bus and not complying with all requirements for such registration.

Sec. 5. Section 14-102a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2007):

Each student transportation vehicle shall be inspected for safety before its initial registration in accordance with a schedule to be adopted by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. Each such student transportation vehicle shall pass inspection before each renewal of registration. Any student transportation vehicle that transports individuals in wheelchairs shall meet the requirements of subsection (e) of section 14-100a, as amended by this act, in order to pass inspection. The fee for each such inspection shall be twenty dollars, except there shall be no fee for inspection of a student transportation vehicle owned by the state or a municipality.

Sec. 6. Subsection (a) of section 19a-180 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2007):

(a) No person shall operate any ambulance service, rescue service or management service without either a license or a certificate issued by the commissioner. No person shall operate a commercial ambulance service or commercial rescue service or a management service without a license issued by the commissioner. A certificate shall be issued to any volunteer or municipal ambulance service which shows proof satisfactory to the commissioner that it meets the minimum standards of the commissioner in the areas of training, equipment and personnel. No license or certificate shall be issued to any volunteer, municipal or commercial ambulance service, rescue service or management service, as defined in subdivision (19) of section 19a-175, unless it meets the requirements of subsection (e) of section 14-100a, as amended by this act. Applicants for a license shall use the forms prescribed by the commissioner and shall submit such application to the commissioner accompanied by an annual fee of one hundred dollars. In considering requests for approval of permits for new or expanded emergency medical services in any region, the commissioner shall consult with the Office of Emergency Medical Services and the emergency medical services council of such region and shall hold a public hearing to determine the necessity for such services. Written notice of such hearing shall be given to current providers in the geographic region where such new or expanded services would be implemented, provided, any volunteer ambulance service which elects not to levy charges for services rendered under this chapter shall be exempt from the provisions concerning requests for approval of permits for new or expanded emergency medical services set forth in this subsection. A primary service area responder in a municipality in which the applicant operates or proposes to operate shall, upon request, be granted intervenor status with opportunity for cross-examination. Each applicant for licensure shall furnish proof of financial responsibility which the commissioner deems sufficient to satisfy any claim. The commissioner may adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, to establish satisfactory kinds of coverage and limits of insurance for each applicant for either licensure or certification. Until such regulations are adopted, the following shall be the required limits for licensure: (1) For damages by reason of personal injury to, or the death of, one person on account of any accident, at least five hundred thousand dollars, and more than one person on account of any accident, at least one million dollars, (2) for damage to property at least fifty thousand dollars, and (3) for malpractice in the care of one passenger at least two hundred fifty thousand dollars, and for more than one passenger at least five hundred thousand dollars. In lieu of the limits set forth in subdivisions (1) to (3), inclusive, of this subsection, a single limit of liability shall be allowed as follows: (A) For damages by reason of personal injury to, or death of, one or more persons and damage to property, at least one million dollars; and (B) for malpractice in the care of one or more passengers, at least five hundred thousand dollars. A certificate of such proof shall be filed with the commissioner. Upon determination by the commissioner that an applicant is financially responsible, properly certified and otherwise qualified to operate a commercial ambulance service, rescue service or management service, the commissioner shall issue the appropriate license effective for one year to such applicant. If the commissioner determines that an applicant for either a certificate or license is not so qualified, the commissioner shall notify such applicant of the denial of the application with a statement of the reasons for such denial. Such applicant shall have thirty days to request a hearing on the denial of the application.

Approved June 19, 2007