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Some kids boo at new booster seat law

February 10, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

A new Pennsylvania law that takes effect on Feb. 21 requires children 7 and younger to be strapped into booster seats when riding in motor vehicles.

The law was passed by the state Legislature as a safety measure to protect children in automobile crashes, legislators said, but they aren't going to sit well with children who haven't been in car seats since they were 3 years old.

"I've outgrown car seats," said Brett Reichard, 6, a first-grader at Hooverville Elementary School in Waynesboro. "If somebody sees you in one, it will be real embarrassing."

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Haley Rock, 7, another Hooverville first-grader, feels the same way.

"It will be a little embarrassing," he said. "I rode in a car seat when I was little. I really didn't mind it then."

"I'm not going to like it," said Sarah Young, 7, a Hooverville classmate. "My baby sitter told me about them and that I'd have to sit in one."

The law states children ages 4 through 7 can no longer ride in a car or light truck unless they are strapped into a booster seat. It was passed to protect children from injuries related to ill-fitting adult safety belts.

"This is about child safety in automobiles, nothing more, nothing less," said State. Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Shippensburg. He said he voted for the bill.

"Every reasonable statistic I've seen leads me to believe it's the right thing to do," Coy said. "Adult safety belts ride too high on young children and don't provide the safest method of restraint.

"Booster seats can prevent injuries and save lives. They are already required in 15 states, and 24 others are moving in that direction."

State Police in Hagerstown said Maryland has a similar law that will take effect in October.

There is no booster seat law in West Virginia, state police in Martinsburg said.

"Seat belts are designed for an average adult who weighs 180 pounds and is 5-feet, 10 inches tall," said trooper Ed Asbury, Pennsylvania State Police spokesman in Chambersburg. "When you stick children in an adult belt, it rides across their abdomen and can cause internal damage. The first bone it usually comes in contact with is the spine.

"A booster seat keeps the belt across the child's thighs and pelvis," Asbury said. "It also has back and neck support. I see this law as a good thing."

Asbury said breaking the booster seat law is a secondary violation that carries fines up to $103.50. The fine will be refunded if the driver buys a booster seat and shows a receipt to the court.

The law will be enforced only when police stop drivers for other violations.

Kim Travis of Marion, Pa., a mother of six children - two of whom are between 4 and 7 - said she will have to buy booster seats for them.

"I don't know if it is a good idea," Travis said. "As a parent, I should be able to decide whether my child is safe or not.

"This is government intrusion," she said. "I understand the government's point, which is to keep the community safe, but this is family intrusion. This is a little much."

Travis said she also is concerned that some cars won't hold two booster seats, which are larger and take up more space than car seats that hold infants or small children.

Patricia Barlow of Waynesboro has two grandchildren who have outgrown car seats, but who will now have to ride in booster seats.

"They've been out of car seats for two years," she said. "They're great for babies, but they've outgrown them now."

Joyce Nale, the manager of the Kmart in Waynesboro, said the store is stocking up on booster seats in the wake of the new law. Prices for the seats, depending on features, range from $32 up to $80.

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