New Law Helps Parents Protect Older Children in Cars
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed, Mar. 16, 2005
By Denise Gallegos-Milosevich
Sheila is having trouble with her son, Collin. The five-year-old never liked using car or booster seats, and he now resists using a booster seat because "I'm a big boy now." Sheila had bargained with him for months as a 3 year old; "You must sit in your booster seat now, but when you are four years old you won't have to."
But on January 1, 2005, a new law took effect which requires a booster seat for all children under 6 years old or 60 pounds. Now that Collin is four, he's trying to hold Sheila to her previous promise. Sheila had repeated so many times that he could stop using a booster seat when he turned four, he doesn't want to accept the change.
Sheila knows that her minivan's seats are designed for adults, not children, and that seat belts won't restrain her son safely unless he's using a booster seat. Many experts even recommend boosters until age eight because of the possible danger to young people.
But convincing Collin of the dangers of an accident is difficult. Collin doesn't want to believe Sheila when she threatens "a policemen will stop me and give me a ticket if you're not in your booster." Or, "You could get a big owie if mama has an accident and you aren't in your booster."
In fact, there's a hefty $100 fine for the first violation. The Court may waive or reduce the fine, but must refer the parent to a violator program. For a second offense, the fine goes up to $250 and auto insurance rates may increase. The law prescribes four safety restraint regimes for children based on their age and weight:
If you have children between six and eight years old, and you're not sure whether they need a booster seat, there's a simple Five Step Test you can use to determine what to do:
If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to ride safely in the car.
Parents should keep in mind that they are their children's most important and closest examples, and should therefore model safe behavior to their children.
Parents also learn to pick their battles with their children. This is a battle the parent must win. No choice. No exceptions.
Denise Gallegos-Milosevich is a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and a Coordinator of the county's Injury Prevention Project. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.