1.  Child Safety Restraints
2.  Booster Seats
  1. Boost 'em Before You Buckle 'em
  2. California Excels, many states fail in Safe Kids safety Report
  3. Don't Skip a Step - When Your Child Outgrows Their Car Seat
  4. Many Misuse Booster Seats; Senate Committee Examines Issue
  5. What Belt-Positioning Booster is Best?

California Excels, Many States Fail In Safe Kids Child Safety Report

The National Safe Kids Campaign just released a study rating child occupant protection laws in the 50 states and District of Columbia. Twenty-four states received an "F," 18 states and the District of Columbia earned a "D." California earned an "A."

Each year, nearly 1,800 children 14 and under die in motor vehicle crashes. More than 274,000 are injured. Riding unrestrained is the greatest risk factor for death and injury among child occupants.

In its report, Safe Kids found "startling gaps in coverage related to age, seating position, and lack of specific child safety seat use." In many states, children are legally allowed to ride completely unrestrained in the back seat, while other states allow children to ride improperly restrained in only an adult safety belt.

No state fully protects all child passengers aged 15 and under. Specifically, children aged 6-8 are not required to ride in booster seats in any state.

Thirty-four states allow child passengers to ride unrestrained due to exemptions. This includes nursing mothers, out-of-state plates, nonstate resident drivers, and overcrowded vehicles.

Grades Based on Specific Criteria

Safe Kids graded the states in these seven categories: 1) restraint use required through age 15, 2) Appropriate child restraint requirement by age, 3) proper safety seat adjustment, 4) public education/public funding, 5) penalty provisions, 6) driver/ circumstance exemptions, and 7) other provisions.

Safe Kids' assessments are based on applicable laws' language, not their implementation or enforcement. Each grade does not correlate a state's laws with its rate of child passenger deaths or injuries.

National Transportation Safety Board acting chairman Carol Carmody commended Safe Kids for its effort to raise child-passenger protection laws. The report shows that "with one exception, none of the states have fulfilled this most basic responsibility to our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. I am encouraged that Safe Kids is committing to work over the next five years to strengthen the existing states laws," Carmody commented.

Conversely, the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives (NAGHSR) believes that education and enforcement were over- looked by Safe Kids.

"The reality is that across the country, states are taking a very active role to increase information and awareness on steps parents can take to ensure their child's safety. Legislation alone is not a magic bullet, but instead just part of the solution," noted NAGHSR chair John Moffat.

Moffat pointed out other efforts that he believes are part of the solution: child safety seats clinics and: fitting stations, enforcement of current laws, and ensuring the public is aware of this enforcement.

For more information on Child Passengers at Risk in America: A National Rating of Child Occupant Safety Laws, call Safe Kids, (202) 662-0600.

Safe Kids Rates State Child Protection Safety Laws, 2001
State Point Grade State Point Grade
California 94 A Maine 60 D
Florida 80 B Maryland 59 F
Nebraska 77 C Michigan 57 F
Washington 76.6 C South Carolina 57 F
Alaska 76 C West Virginia 55 F
Connecticut 76 C Montana 54 F
Kentucky 73 C Indiana 52.63 F
Massachusetts 72 C Kansas 2.29 F
Colorado 69 D Oklahoma 51.96 F
Delaware 69 D Texas 51.62 F
Rhode Island 69 D Arkansas 51.32 F
New Hampshire 68 D Missouri 50 F
North Carolina 68 D Louisiana 49.96 F
Utah 67 D Mississippi 49.31 F
Virginia 67 D New Mexico 44.3 F
Wyoming 67 D Arizona 42.32 F
New York 66 D Alabama 40.65 F
Hawaii 66 D Wisconsin 40.31 F
Nevada 64 D Ohio 39.99 F
District of Columbia 63 D Iowa 38.65 F
Georgia 63 D South Dakota 37.32 F
North Dakota 63 D Pennsylvania 34.99 F
Vermont 63 D Illinois 34.65 F
Tennessee 62.96 D Idaho 33.99 F
Minnesota 62.3 D New Jersey 24.32 F
Oregon 61 D

This document was last updated on March 23, 2001.

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Many Misuse Booster Seats; Senate Committee Examines Issue

More than half of all booster seats are used incorrectly, according to researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Shield booster seats are more than three times as likely to be misused as are belt-positioning booster seats.

Overall, 56 percent of the booster seats evaluated at car seat checkpoints demonstrated at least one form of misuse. Sixty-four percent of children using booster seats weighed less than 40 pounds, yet guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration call for children to remain in forward-facing car seats up to this weight.

Belt-positioning booster seats, which are the recommended variety, can only be used with a lap/shoulder safety belt. "Safety advocates recommend that families with older model cars equipped with lap-only seat belts have their car retrofitted with shoulder belts," said Shannon Morris, the study's lead author and project coordinator for the Partners for Child Passenger Safety Study at the hospital. "This would permit use of the safer, belt-positioning booster seats for children who have outgrown their convertible child safety seat."

The most common misuses in shield booster seats were not using a locking clip correctly or at all when needed (78 percent) and not tightly securing the shield booster seat to the vehicle (73 percent).

Belt-positioning booster seats are less likely to be misused because of their simplicity, the study noted. The most common misuse of these seats (14 percent) involved incorrect placement of the shoulder belt across the child's body.

The study was based on a sample of 227 parents who attended car seat checkpoints in Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey between April 1997 and January 1999.

Testimonials Urge Better Booster Seat Use

On April 24, several safety advocates testified about child safety seats at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcom- mittee on Consumer Affairs.

Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, presented the following recommendations:

  • all states should adopt booster seat laws
  • NHTSA should expand its child restraint standard to children who weigh up to 80 pounds
  • NHTSA should establish minimum requirements for booster seat performance/structural integrity
  • NHTSA should develop a child test dummy representative of a 10-year-old to test booster seats
  • NHTSA should upgrade the seat back strength standard to protect against injuries from front seats collapsing onto children in the rear seat
  • NHTSA and auto manufacturers should make built-in booster seats standard equipment on some models
  • >
  • auto manufacturers should enhance safety for children in the rear seat

According to L. Robert Shelton, NHTSA executive director, the agency is taking action to improve booster seat usage. For example, under the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act, NHTSA is considering whether to amend the standard to cover child restraints for children up to 80 pounds.

NHTSA is working with the Society of Automotive Engineers to build a 10-year-old child dummy. The agency is conducting a study on the use and effectiveness of booster seats.

In addition, NHTSA conducts compliance tests to ensure that standards are met and in 1998 sponsored a Blue Ribbon Panel of experts to recommend better ways to protect child passengers aged 4-16.

National Transportation Safety Board acting director Elaine Weinstein also testified at the hearing. "The safety board believes that children of all ages need to be properly restrained and should be covered by the states' child restraint and seat belt use laws," she said, noting that only three states (Washington, California, and Arkansas) have enacted some form of booster seat law.

Weinstein testified that the back seat of vehicles should be designed with children in mind. She also noted that the board is concerned that adequate, affordable protection is not readily available for children transported in vehicles with lap-only belts in the back seat.

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