Friday, January 02, 2015

TOP STORY >> New law protects minors’ privacy

A new state law protects the identities of children who are in motor vehicles involved in traffic accidents.

Act 1229, sponsored by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), went into effect Friday. It amends the previous laws that set out what must be listed in reports on traffic accidents that are filled out by law enforcement officers.

The list includes the names and addresses of drivers and occupants of motor vehicles involved in accidents.

Under Act 1229, the names of minors under 18 years of age will be redacted from accident reports. However, their names will be available to the parents of passengers and the insurance companies that cover people involved in accidents.

“My foremost intention was to protect children’s identities, as we do when they are brought into the legal system in other areas,” Williams said.
“I was asked to sponsor the bill a few years ago, after a school bus accident in Cabot.

“There were no serious injuries, but the kids received letters from lawyers and even a chiropractor. Parents and school officials contacted me about it, and I was glad to help,” Williams said.

“Children will be shielded from unsolicited calls and contacts,” Williams said. “Protecting the legal identities of children is critical in this day and age, when social media and the Internet can spread a person’s vital information across the globe within a few seconds.”

The act was approved during the 2013 regular session and takes effect on Jan. 1.

Williams said he postponed the effective date of the act so that law enforcement agencies would have time to change their computer systems. Act 1229 was passed by both chambers of the legislature without a dissenting vote.

Williams will be chairman of the Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs and a member of the Senate Education Committee.

The President Pro Tem of the Senate will be Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), who has appointed Williams as one of the four assistant President Pro Temps.

Williams represents Senate District 29, which includes parts of Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski and White counties.