Many states have implemented child passenger safety laws, and they have made them a part of their primary enforcement law. That means police can stop drivers and write tickets for having improperly restrained children in the vehicle. But do these laws have an effect on drivers?
Booster seats are probably the least understood and least used child safety restraint. Many parents believe that boosters are an unnecessary expense, erroneously thinking that a seat belt will do just as well. Here we will look at one state that implemented a booster seat law, and its effect on children who live in that state.
The state of Wisconsin implemented their booster seat law in June of 2006. It states that children must be restrained in a booster seat if they are:
- Between 4 and 8 years old
- Between 40 and 79 pounds in weight
- No taller than 4’9”
The law was well-publicized and promoted through news conferences and safety seat checks throughout the state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) then conducted a study in 2007 to see whether the use of child booster seats was actually higher because of the law. In order to conduct such a study, a control group was needed for comparison; a neighboring state, Michigan was selected. Michigan did not have a booster seat law. Instead, all children under the age of 4 in Michigan were required to ride in a child restraint system, with children from ages 4 to 9 using seat belts.
The end result of the test showed that not only did booster seat use increase by 5.9%, but all child restraint use increased in both states. Also, 9.1% fewer Wisconsin children were riding completely unrestrained in their vehicles after the law was implemented. This seems to indicate that continual public education and awareness does make a difference in parents’ decisions to use child safety seats.
Why Use a Booster?
Booster seats help restrain the child properly in case of a crash. In 2002, there were over 76,000 children between age 4 and 8 who were injured in crashes. Vehicle seat belts are designed for adult bodies; the booster lifts the child, keeping the lap belt on the thighs instead of on his vulnerable abdominal area. Also, if you re using a booster correctly the shoulder belt will be centered on the shoulder and chest.
Children over the age of four tend to have a fairly high rate of injury when they don’t use boosters because they often ride out of position, slouching or scooting forward on the seat. They also often place the shoulder belt either underneath their arm or behind the back. Neither of these is a safe way for your child to ride; in case of an accident he or she can be seriously injured.
It can be difficult to convince elementary-age children to use their booster seats, but these tips may help:
- Use the seat every time, with no exceptions
- Never refer to it as a “baby” seat
- Remind your child that there are benefits: he can see out, it has a cup holder, etc.
Car seats and booster seats should be a non-negotiable rule in every household. The law requires it, and the well-being of your child depends on it. For more information, visit www.carseat.org.