Connecticut may ban smoking in cars

Posted at 8:07 PM, Feb 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-20 20:07:48-05

(Hartford Courant) — State legislators will hear public opinion Wednesday on proposals to ban smoking in cars with young passengers, open the HOV lanes to any drivers at afternoon rush hour, and require annual inspections for high-mileage vehicles.

One bill would require senior citizens to undergo eye exams when renewing their drivers licenses, and another would require every driver in the state to get certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Those ideas are among more than 100 bills before the General Assembly’s transportation committee.

The committee will hear testimony Wednesday on 44 of them, and then decide later in the session whether to advance some, all, or none of them along the law-making process.

One measure with heavy support early on is HB 5380, which is billed as a way to protect children from secondhand smoke. It would outlaw smoking while driving with any child in the car age 6 or younger. Rep. Henry Genga, D-East Hartford, introduced the bill with six colleagues; another 23 legislators have signed on as cosponsors.

If passed, the bill would give a one-year transition period when violators will be issued warnings. Afterward, though, they’d face a ticket, though the legislation doesn’t specify the penalty. Drivers with a cigarette, cigar or pipe in or near their mouths would create a “rebuttable presumption” that they’re smoking; police would need no other grounds to write the ticket, but the driver could contest it in court.

A proposal by Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, would allow any drivers to use the state’s high-occupancy vehicle lanes during the afternoon rush hour. SB 300 would lift the usual restrictions on HOV lanes between 4 and 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Opening the full highway to all traffic would help reduce rush-hour backups, said Kissel, who represents north central Connecticut towns at the upper end of I-91. Traffic headed toward that region frequently backs up just above Hartford at the afternoon rush, while the HOV lanes stay mostly clear.

Rep. DebraLee Hovey, R-Newtown, is proposing HB 5187, a requirement for all cars registered in Connecticut to undergo annual safety checks.

HB 6021, a more narrow proposal by Rep. Tom Vicino, D-Clinton, would mandate safety inspections for cars that have logged 100,000 miles or more; Vicino hasn’t specified how often those inspections should be done. Neither bill specifies how the motor vehicles department should create a network of inspection locations, and neither details what those inspections should cost.

HB 6247 from Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, would require drivers 65 and older to get a vision exam when obtaining or renewing a Connecticut driver’s license.

A bill that potentially would affect all drivers is HB 6054 from Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington. It would mandate that every driver in Connecticut get “civilian certification” in CPR before obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. The idea is intended to increase the survival rate of heart attack victims by having more of the population trained to effectively intervene, according to her proposal.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.