Governor Steve Beshear today joined local officials, child-safety advocates and medical staff at the University of Kentucky to ceremonially sign long-awaited legislation to improve child passenger safety in motor vehicles.
House Bill 315 brings Kentucky’s booster seat law in line with 31 other states, including all seven of our neighboring states.
The previous law required children younger than 7 years old and between 40 and 50 inches in height to ride in booster seats. The enhanced bill increases the height requirement to 57 inches and the age requirement to 8 years old. Children younger than 8 but taller than 57 inches, will not have to ride in a booster seat.
“Passage of this bill provides greater safety and protection to our most precious asset – our children,” said Gov. Beshear. “I commend the many advocate groups who have long-supported this legislation and both chambers for working together to enhance Kentucky’s booster seat law.”
Effective on June 24, the bill requires law enforcement officers to issue citations with a $30 fine and no court costs. In addition, violators will have the option to purchase a booster seat instead of paying the fine.
“Legislators tried for many years to revise and update this law. I was proud to be the chief sponsor for the first time this year, because the evidence is clear: This change will save lives, reduce serious injuries, and even significantly reduce seatbelt-related injuries,” said Rep. Steve Riggs, of Louisville. “It should not be a problem for families, either, because they are already required to use booster seats for their young children. Now, they will just have to use these seats a little longer, until the children can properly wear seatbelts on their own once they reach the correct height.”
A properly installed, belt-positioning booster seat lowers the risk of injury to children by nearly 60 percent, compared with seat belts alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The reason is simple: motor vehicle seat belts were designed for adults, not children. The added height of the booster seat enables the child to fit into a seat belt properly,” said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock.
A proper fit for a seat belt equates to the lap portion of the belt fitting low on the hips or high on the thighs and the shoulder portion of the belt being snug across the collarbone. A booster seat accomplishes this for a child.
According to child safety and medical experts, an ill-fitting lap belt puts a child at significantly greater risk of serious injury to the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and intestines in the event of a crash. The ill-fitting shoulder belt puts a child at much higher risk of a serious head or facial injury.
“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children above the age of 1 in Kentucky,” said Dr. Susan Pollack, a Kentucky Children’s Hospital pediatrician, Safe Kids Kentucky coordinator and director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Injury Program at Kentucky Injury and Prevention Research Center. “We know many Kentucky children are saved every year, even in serious crashes, by being properly restrained and protected in a booster seat. The revised law gives parents better guidance for safely transporting their children.”
“This bill will further protect our children,” said Sharon Rengers, R.N., Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy at Kosair Children’s Hospital. “Prior guidelines were putting many children at risk every day.”
KNOW THE STATISTICS:
The following results were taken from 142 trauma cases treated at Kosair Children’s Hospital involving children in motor vehicle crashes:
All were restrained in seat belts.
70 percent were older than seven and younger than ten, so a booster seat was not required.
There were a significant number of injuries to internal organs.
Half the children had head or face injuries, of which 30 percent were severe.
One in five had large-bone leg fractures.
One child had a traumatic amputation consistent with having a belt that was not snug.
Kentucky Children’s Hospital and Kosair Children’s Hospital are the only Level I pediatric trauma centers in Kentucky.
The legislation received broad support from groups including Kosair Children’s Hospital, the Kentucky Injury and Prevention Research Center, the Kentucky State Safe Kids and the Fayette County Safe Kids Coalition led by Kentucky Children’s Hospital. The bill also received support from Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, Safe Kids coalitions, law enforcement officials, emergency responders, pediatricians and booster seat advocates from around the state.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet