Boosting Booster Seats

Actress Angelina Jolie arrives for the U.S. premiere of "Ocean's 13," June 5, 2007, at the Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.
Most parents understand the importance of buckling infants and toddlers into car seats. State laws underline this need, mandating that children under 40 pounds be restrained in specially-designed seats.

However, there is a "forgotten" group of children ages 4 to 8 whose lives are being risked every day when parents fasten adult seatbelts over their small bodies.

This week, the consumer segment of The Saturday Early Show focuses on the need to use car booster seats.

Seatbelts should rest across a passenger's shoulders and lap; on young children the belts hit their necks and stomachs. This causes serious injury in an accident - slicing into the stomach all the way to the spine or allowing the child to slip out from the seat belt.

Less than 10 percent of children between 40 and 80 pounds use booster seats. Only three states - Washington, Arkansas and California - have laws calling for booster seats, and there are no federally regulated crash tests for booster seats.

Traffic accidents are the number one cause of accidental death among young children. The problem is two-fold: car seats are not installed correctly and children are not using booster seats. A variety of efforts are under way to stop these preventable deaths.

  • Individuals like Chris Mistron in Nassau County, New York, are becoming certified in safety-seat installation. He and his counterparts across the country have daily "fitting" appointments for parents.
  • Many car dealerships now offer certified seat installation as do car rental agencies.
  • A group called Boost America is blitzing elementary schools with educational videos and other materials to show kids that booster seats are cool. The group has also pledged to give away one million seats this year.
On the legal front:
  • By 2002, all cars are required to have uniform tether points/attachment points for car seats. Correspondingly, the seats have to come equipped with uniform tethers.
  • Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Illinois) held a hearing last Tuesday to discuss the importance of booster seats and to examine gaps in state laws concerning the "forgotten" age group.

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