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Archive for Friday, February 6, 2004

Highway Patrol lieutenant pleads for changes in child seat-belt law

February 6, 2004

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— Children 8 years old and younger who weigh less than 80 pounds would be required to use a booster seat when riding in a motor vehicle under legislation considered Thursday by a Senate committee.

The bill also requires children between 8 and 18 years old to wear a seat belt, regardless of whether they're in the front or back seat. Current law requires children under 4 years old to use a booster seat, and those between 4 and 14 to use a seat belt in the front or back seat.

Kansas Highway Patrol Lt. John Eichkorn told the Senate Transportation Committee that seat belts designed for the comfort of adults don't fit small children. Under Kansas law, children are required to use seat belts between the ages of 4 and 14, even though the seat belts don't fit.

"On average, about two times a week we get a phone call from the public asking what the law says about child restraints," Eichkorn said. "They think the law is what is best going to protect their child."

Traci Meyer, of Emporia, told the committee that her 4-year-old daughter escaped injury in a crash last year because she was properly secured in a booster seat, even though state law allows her to use a regular seat belt.

"A recent national study found that nine out of 10 parents mistakenly believe that if they follow their state's current child passenger safety law, they will be taking adequate steps to protect their children," Meyer said.

Sen. Larry Salmans, R-Hanston, a member of the committee, said after the meeting that he had concerns about the child-restraint bill. Among those are availability of booster seats for the older children, and potential enforcement problems when people from other states drive through Kansas without the booster seats.

Improperly fitting seat belts can cause serious injuries to children in a crash, said Danielle Roeber, an official with the National Transportation Safety Board. She said children restrained in seat belts are more than three times more likely to suffer abdominal injuries than children appropriately restrained in booster seats.

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