New law for child safety

first_imgBy Morgan RoanUniversity of GeorgiaA new law in Georgia will require children 5 years old and younger to be secured in a child safety seat while traveling.”The bill has been passed by both Houses in Georgia and will be finalized when Gov. Sonny Perdue signs it,” said Don Bower, an Extension Service human development specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “The law will go into effect on July 1, 2004.”This bill is an extension of the current law, Bower said. Children 4 and under are already required to be in child safety seats. The new bill extends the law to cover children for another year, up to their sixth birthday, in safety seats.Bower said many older children still need to be in booster seats. The American Academy of Pediatrics, he said, recommends that children between 30 and 80 pounds and 4 feet 9 inches or shorter to be buckled into an appropriate booster seat.This is to help protect all child passengers, he said. Seat belts are designed for adults who are at least 4-feet-9 and 80 pounds or larger.Booster seats correct the fit of the belts for smaller children, he said. They raise a child so the vehicle’s lap belt fits low across the hips and the shoulder belt fits correctly across the chest.Advocates for highway safety have found that using booster seats reduced the risk of injury by 59 percent when compared with the use of vehicle belts alone.Under the new Georgia law, children who are older than 5 years won’t be required to be in a safety seat but will still have to wear seat belts until they’re 17. Even then, all drivers and front-seat passengers have to wear seat belts.All states require child restraint systems to ages 2, 3 or 4, and most require seat belts for older persons. Fewer than half have booster seat laws.Georgia’s child passenger safety law is being strengthened, Bower said, because motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and for all people between the ages of 1 and 34.Georgia Division of Public Health statistics show that on average, 35 children under age 5 are killed every year as passengers in car crashes.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 150 lives could be saved annually if children were restrained with lap and shoulder belts. Another 19 lives could be saved every year if children who are ready for booster seats used them with lap and shoulder belts.The UGA Extension Service gets grant funding from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to run the Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute.The state’s main provider of passenger safety educational programs, GTIPI has taught seat belt safety for more than 18 years. In that time, the use of child safety seats has increased from less than 20 percent to more than 90 percent.”Our staff goes and helps communities run safety seat check events,” Bower said. “Families can bring their vehicles and safety seats and specialists can check them to make sure they’re installed correctly and all parts are functioning properly.”Some common errors the staff has seen are misrouted safety belts, harnesses too loose around the child and seats inappropriate for the child’s height and weight, he said.”It is important for parents to read both the safety seat and vehicle manual,” Bower said, “to ensure that the seats are properly installed.”Booster seats can be bought at discount outlets, toy retailers and baby stores.The GTIPI maintains lists of recalled seats, provides free brochures and helps parents help their beginning teen drivers get off to a safe start.To learn more about child safety restraint systems and seat belts, call the GTIPI at 1-800-342-9819. Or check the Web at www.ridesafegeorgia.org.(Morgan Roan is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img

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