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FOR RELEASE: February 14, 2002
Child Safety Seat Amendment To Be Considered
In an effort to bring state law more in line with best practice, the Oklahoma Legislature will consider a measure this session to amend the state’s child passenger safety law.
“Currently, children can be moved from toddler seats to seat belts when they turn 4, and although legal, that practice is not at all safe or recommended,” said Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
“Seat belts are not made for young children,” she added. “The latest recommendation from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is that children remain in booster seats until they turn 8.”
The amendment being proposed to the Legislature, S.B. 910 authored by Sen. Ben Robinson, would require children to be in boosters until they turn 6. In addition, the loophole for out-of-state motorists would be removed.
“Right now, motorists with an out-of-state driver’s license can legally drive down the road with a child in their lap and they cannot be ticketed,” said Collar.
That provision was included in the original law, which was written in 1984, before all 50 states required child passengers to be restrained. “Lawmakers didn’t want unsuspecting motorists to drive through Oklahoma and be cited for a law that perhaps didn’t exist in their home state. Now all 50 states have child passenger safety laws, so it’s time to make that change,” said Collar.
The bill is being heard in the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee this week, National Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week.
Car crashes are the leading health risk for children over age 1, according to OSDH statistics. In Oklahoma, more than 20 children under 6 years of age die each year in motor vehicle crashes and more than 1,100 children are injured seriously enough to require medical treatment. More than 70 percent of the children who die are not in a child safety seat.
According to SAFE KIDS and other safety groups, the “five-step test” is a better yardstick than a child’s age to determine if he or she is ready for seat belts. Parents should ask the following questions:
If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, the child needs a booster seat to ride safely in the car.
Booster seats that accommodate children to 80 lbs., and even beyond, can be found readily in the retail market. They start at about $25. This past fall, SAFE KIDS, in conjunction with numerous other safety groups, distributed 8,000 free booster seats statewide. Free seats are still available at various child safety seat check-up events, and a discount purchasing program is ongoing.
For resources or technical questions related to child passenger safety or other unintentional injuries, call the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition at 405-271-5695. Information is also available on their Web site: www.oksafekids.org.
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