Only 10 percent of Kentucky children ages 4 through 8 who should be riding in booster seats actually are, according to the Kentucky State Police. That contrasts sharply to Kentucky’s use of car seats for toddlers and infants under 4 years of age. About 94 percent of those children are buckled in car seats, according to the Kentucky Transportation Center.
“Our state has been doing a good job of protecting its youngest citizens and adults by requiring car seats for ages 4 and under and seat belt usage for everyone else,” said Fulton County Richard Major, who prosecutes traffic violations in district court. “However, there has been a segment without adequate protection, and that is children ages 4 through 8, who typically are too large for car seats, but too small for seat belts to be effective.”
However, with the passage of HB 55 this year, Kentucky will join 38 other states that have a booster seat law.
“The new law will require that children ages 6 and under who are between 40 and 50 inches tall ride in booster seats,” said Major. “Although the law was passed this year, it will be phased in over the next 12 months.”
Those who violate the law, which takes effect July 15, will be issued a courtesy warning until July 1, 2009. After that, violators will be fined $30.
“Anyone who hasn’t been previously charged for driving with a child who is not in a booster seat may choose to provide proof that he or she has acquired one, and the charge and fine will be dismissed,” Major said.
The new requirements are part of KRS 189.125, which sets forth guidelines for child safety seats, booster seats and seat belt usage. The law does not apply to motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, farm trucks registered for agricultural use only and having a gross weight of one ton or more, or vehicles designed to carry more than 10 passengers, according to Major.
“Kentucky’s first child-restraint law requiring car seats for children 40 inches and under became effective in 1982,” said Major. “Since then, Kentucky drivers have increased their use of car seats and saved hundreds of children’s lives. We believe this new law will save lives, too.”
Even when wearing a seat belt, small children can be ejected from a car without the use of a booster seat. Booster seats properly position the seat belt over the strongest part of the child’s body—the hips and collarbone. When used without a booster, seat belts often go across a child’s belly and neck. This is particularly dangerous during a crash because the seat belt will continue to pull backward, which could lead to internal or spinal cord injuries.
“Over time, we hope booster seat usage will be as high as that of car seats in our state,” said Major. “Laws requiring the use of car seats, booster seats and seat belts in Kentucky will have a tremendous impact by savings hundreds of lives each year.”