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Kids should stay in boosters until 8, study reaffirms

Submitted by on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 No Comment

If you have a chance to pass a law that would reduce by almost half the chance that a kid would be injured in a car accident, how quickly would you ask, “where do I sign?”

Pretty quickly, you say? Well there just aren’t enough people like you in 30-odd states, which have refused to pass laws requiring that children remain in booster seats until at least age 8. That’s despite numerous studies – including a new one released this week – showing that boosters do a better job than seat belts of protecting children in crashes.

The latest study, published in the online edition of the journal Pediatrics, says booster seats with or without backs work equally well – that’s a financial relief, because backless models are much less expensive. Backless models also are an easier sell to kids who complain that ones with backs look like baby seats.

What matters is that small children remain in them instead of transitioning directly from harness safety seats to belts, the study says.

The researchers analyzed data from 6,591 actual crashes in 16 states from 1998 to 2007 – real-world conditions as opposed to simulations. They found that, overall, children in boosters were 45 percent less likely to suffer injuries in crashes. The results were even more dramatic for side-impact crashes – kids were 68 percent less likely to be hurt if the impact was on the side where they were seated, 82 percent if impact was on the opposite side.

Yet, only 17 states require children to remain in boosters up to age 8, according to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Two others – North Dakota and Oregon -have height or weight requirements written into their laws rather than basing them strictly on age. That’s probably a better approach anyway, given that children come in wildly varying shapes and sizes.

California’s tried to increase the requirements, but the bill’s either been vetoed or failed to make it through both houses.  One lawmaker defended a parent’s rights to separate squabbling kids by putting one in the front seat.  Another said parents are “sick and tired” of changing car-seat requirements. Yet another said he didn’t like the idea because getting his 6-year-old daughter back in a booster would be “a major family battle.”

Here’s a tip on how to win that battle, Mr. Assemblyman. You lie, just like I’m doing with Big Guy right now. Under current California law, he could have wormed his way out of a safety seat when he turned 6, even though he’s only 3-11 and 50 pounds. I tell him that the seat is for kids who weigh up to 80 pounds and he likely won’t be there until he’s 8. Actually, he might not be there until he’s 18 as scrawny as he is, so I’ve left myself wiggle room.

I’m not much into over-protecting my kids from the imagined hazards of the world. But when it comes to something that’s been proven time and again to protect them from real hazards, I don’t hesitate a single second.

It’s stunning that so many states continue to hesitate despite ever-growing evidence that booster seats protect children.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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