Beginning January 1, 2012, California’s new law that says children under 8 years of age must ride in a car booster seat will take effect. The law also states that children under 8 years old have to be buckled into a car seat or booster seat, and they must ride in the back seat. The California Office of Traffic Safety also stated in a recent press release that children 8 years old and older must also use a booster seat or car seat if they aren’t tall enough for the seat belt to fit them properly. Under the current law, children must ride in a booster seat until they are 6 years old or they weigh at least 60 pounds.
The director of the Office of Traffic Safety, Christopher J. Murphy, said in a recent statement that the new law is an important one, and will affect 1.1 million children in the state. He also said that keeping children in booster seats increases their chance of surviving a crash by 45 percent.
Booster seats work by making a child sit higher, boosting them up so that seat belts designed to fit adults will fit properly and provide appropriate protection for their small bodies. A seat belt fits properly when it restrains a passenger across the hip bones, not across the sensitive soft tissue and organs in the stomach and belly areas. Seat belts not worn properly can cause serious injury in a collision if they cross the stomach instead of the skeletal structure. This is especially true for children whose bodies are not yet big enough for the seat belt to cross in the proper place to restrain them.
When the new law takes effect, most children can still ride in the booster seats they are already using. If the seat currently being used for a child is not adequate, new booster seats can be found at major retail outlets. The cost is around $15 to $20 for a low-back booster seat.
The fine for those who violate the law is big. Officers can ticket parents, if they are in the car, or the driver a hefty $475 or more for every child under the age of 16 who is not properly restrained. Violators will also receive a point on their driving record.
The Office of Traffic Safety has issued easy guidelines for determining if a child fits in an adult seat belt:
- A child can sit with their back flush against the back of a vehicle’s seat with knees bent, and the child does not slouch or scoot down. The child can comfortably remain in this proper seated position for the duration of a trip.
- The lap belt sits low on the hips and touches the upper thighs. It does not cross along the soft tissues of the stomach or belly.
- The shoulder belt falls along the chest; it does not touch or cut into the neck or face.
According to the agency’s spokespeople, children must never be permitted to slip out of the shoulder belt and put it behind them, which is also true of all occupants of a vehicle. Riding with the shoulder belt behind the arm or back offers no protection or restraint to the upper body in the case of a collision. Head trauma and major injuries to the spinal cord can occur. According to the state agency, a sign that children still need a booster seat is if they’re putting the shoulder belt behind them. A shoulder belt that hits the face or neck causes chafing and is irritating. A booster seat, to raise an occupant to the proper height for the restraint device, will solve the problem and keep small people safer as they ride.
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