Backseat boosterism

Our view : Maryland's booster seat law certain to save lives

June 30, 2008

No doubt some people will find Maryland's new child booster seat requirement onerous. The law, which went into effect today, mandates the use of some form of safety seat for children until they turn 8, weigh 65 pounds or reach 4 feet 9 inches tall.

But it's all too easy to lose sight of the fact that vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children in this country. Studies show a properly used safety seat or booster reduces the chances of a child being seriously injured or killed in a car crash by more than half.

Public education campaigns can carry the message only so far. Pediatricians have been recommending booster seats for 7-and 8-year-olds for years, as does the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Free safety seat distribution programs have been helpful as well.

But just as states needed to require the use of seat belts to get the highest possible percentage of drivers and passengers to use them, making any failure to provide a booster for an older child a violation of law (and one that can cause police to pull a driver over) should greatly expand their use. One national survey suggested that only about 41 percent of 4- to 7-year-olds are provided a booster seat now.

The trend toward stronger child seat laws is also well established. Maryland is now one of 18 states - along with the District of Columbia - with the more stringent law.

Still, saving young lives should make shelling out the $15 to $40 for a booster seat seem cheap and the burden of keeping a child in one exceedingly light.

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