News 12 This Morning / Thursday, June 30, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- As the weekend nears and parents get ready to take a trip with their children, many will need to think about putting their younger ones back into booster seats.
Georgia's new law, which goes into effect Friday, requires children 8 and under to be in booster seats. Children who are shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall and under 40 pounds are unsafely restrained in regular seat belts.
However, there are some exemptions. If you have a child that is 8 years old but taller than 4 feet 9 inches, they are not required to be in a booster seat.
Cherri Alexander's six-year-old will now need to be buckled back in.
"We had actually taken him out of the booster seat because he wasn't required to be in one," Alexander said. "Not really sure how he feels about it."
Putting seat belts on younger children puts them at risk, said Lt. Randy Prickett of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
"It can cut their oxygen or actually they can escape from the seat belt and be a projectile in the car," Prickett said.
Rene Hopkins, Safe Kids coordinator at GHSU, makes sure parents like Alexander know how to strap their young ones in and keep them secured.
Hopkins explained how regular seat belts hit in all the wrong places on a child below the height requirement. It sits improperly on the lap, which can be dangerous during an accident.
"The process of going through puberty changes the bone structure for children. They're just not ready for the adult system until after the age of 8," Hopkins said.
Hopkins said the lap and shoulder belts will fit properly and won't rub on their necks. Children will also be able to see out the the window from their seats.
The changes are important because motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 form of unintentional injury-related deaths for children, Hopkins said. Children using booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a crash, according to the Georgia Office of Highway Safety.
"With me knowing all that I know now, don't see why they didn't make this law a long time ago," Alexander said.
Once the new law kicks into gear on Friday, officers will be patrolling to make sure your children are seated safely. If you're not using a booster seat, you can expect a citation.
That is $50 for the first child and $100 for any other children that are not restrained properly.
If you're planning a family trip for this July Fourth weekend, make sure you get a booster seat before Friday.
In order to educate parents, GHSU will hold an event July 27 at the Health Department on Laney Walker. Employees will be giving away free booster seats to parents and will help to make sure the seat is fitted properly. The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- just in time to get prepared before school starts up for the fall.
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