Students revive effort to ban smoking in car with kids

MADISON, Conn. (WTNH) – Some students at Hand High School aren’t content to coast through their last year before higher education.

“We were kind of tired of doing busywork and we wanted to do something meaningful,” said Adam Bechtold. “We felt we really could do something and still learn about the process … the whole goal of a civics class.”

So a group of seniors in a civics class decided to revive an effort that in six years has yet to pass the legislature: banning smoking when children are in the car.

“A lot of other states have passed (similar laws),” said Jen Ongley. “They’re being proposed with more frequency. People are starting to realize this is an important topic.”

Some lawmakers objected to the idea of the police pulling someone over and ticketing them for smoking. But the proposal being hashed out at Hand would make it a secondary offense, so that wouldn’t happen.

“If you are speeding, your tail lights out, you’re disorderly driving and you get pulled over and you happen to be smoking with a toddler in the seat, it’s called a secondary violation, you get an additional fine,” said Bill Brown.

A similar bill that failed in the legislature last year also proposed the violation as a secondary offense. The sponsor of that bill said he’s grateful for the work the Hand kids are doing.

“This is my first year being able to vote and I’m already proposing a bill to the state Senate which I think few people have done, much less at our age,” said Mike Marino. “I think it gives us some real insight into how the government works.”

If the students’ proposal doesn’t see the light of the legislature this year, which is likely, it will be put in a file for next year’s senior civics class.

Mark Davis reporting

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