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Deputy says some don't know about changes in safety seat laws

April 17, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The state has changed its child safety seat law and J.C. Tennant said a lot of people are unaware of it.

The law used to center around a child's weight, said Tennant, a deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

A child who was in a certain weight range was required to be secured in a car safety seat, Tennant said.

What officials eventually realized is that while a child might have exceeded the weight which required a safety seat, that child might have been too short for a car seat belt to work properly, said Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson.

The state then did away with the weight requirement and replaced it with a height requirement, Tennant said.

Under the new law, which took effect last July, children must use car seats until they are 8 years old or until the child reaches a height of four feet, nine inches, Tennant said.

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Tennant said many motorists are not complying with the law, especially the requirement for booster seats, one of three types of child safety seats.

"In talking to people, they are totally unaware of it," Tennant said.

Tennant is trying to get the word out about the new child seat law and said an event is being planned at the Wal-Mart on U.S. 340 to help parents learn about proper child seat safety.

Any person who violates the child safety seat law could be issued a misdemeanor citation, Tennant said.

For infants from birth to at least 1 and at least 20 pounds, motorists are to use a "rear-facing" child safety seat. That seat is classified as a level one seat.

For children from age 1 to about age 4 and weighing 20 pounds to 40 pounds, motorists are to use a "forward-facing" seat. That is a level two seat.

A booster seat is recommended for children from about age 4 and weighing about 40 pounds to at least age 8, or until they reach a height of four feet, nine inches, Tennant said.

The booster seat is a level 3 seat. Each of the levels are designated on the seats in stores, Tennant said.

Police say people not using child safety seats properly is a problem that exists throughout the area. West Virginia State Police Trooper T.A. Bowers, who is stationed in Berkeley County, said he sees a lot of children not restrained at all.

Bowers said if an adult is not wearing a seat belt, he may give that person a warning. But if the person has an unrestrained child in the car, Bowers said he will ticket the driver.

At the event at the Wal-Mart store, the sheriff's department will join with the Charles Town Police Department to talk to parents about proper use of the seats, Tennant said. Tennant said he hopes to offer the event next month.




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West Virginia has changed the requirements in its child safety seat law. For more information about the changes, go to www.wvdot.com.

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