Boston - Mayor Thomas M. Menino and child safety advocates today applauded Governor Deval Patrick for signing a bill that will reduce injury and death to children in motor vehicle crashes by requiring those who’ve outgrown child safety seats to wear booster seats. The bill, approved by the Legislature last week, goes into effect in 90 days.
“This law is about saving lives,” said Mayor Menino, who had made passage of a booster seat bill a priority and been a cosponsor in the last several legislative sessions. “Most parents are aware that a car seat will protect their children from injury in the event of a crash, but may not know that a booster seat is just as important. I congratulate Governor Patrick and our legislators for taking this critical step to protect our children’s health and safety.”
Sponsored by State Senator Steven A. Baddour of Methuen, the booster seat legislation requires children who outgrow child safety seats to be in booster seats when riding in vehicles. The law applies to children up to age eight or 4 feet-9 inches in height, whichever comes first. The fine for violations is $25 per child and a non-surchargeable offense for insurance purposes. Passage of the bill makes Massachusetts the 41st state in the nation to have a booster seat law.
Senator Anthony Petruccelli of Boston, with whom Mayor Menino had collaborated on booster seat legislation, said, "It was a pleasure to be a part of such an imperative piece of legislation. The realization of the law is due to the hard work of many, many people and they are to be credited for the enhancement of child safety."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children between ages four and seven. About 350 children in that age group die each year, and about 50,000 are injured. Half of those in fatal crashes are not properly restrained. Compared to the use of seat belts alone, booster seats lower the risk of injury in crashes by 59 percent.
“Education is a big part of changing habits,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Parents need to know that seat belts are not designed for small children. Booster seats are for that stage in life when children have outgrown their car seats, but are not ready for a seat belt.”
Costing an average of $30, booster seats prevent injury by adding extra height to the child so that the seat belt rests on the strongest parts of the child’s body. Although child safety seat use is greater than 90 percent for infants and toddlers, booster seat use is estimated nationally at 41 percent.
“We have seen children involved in motor vehicle collisions admitted to the hospital for injuries to the abdomen, spine, and head that could have been prevented if they had been in booster seats,” said Leslie Rideout, pediatric trauma nurse coordinator at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
Today’s bill signing marks the culmination of years of advocacy that brought together the American Automobile Association (AAA) and SafeKids Worldwide with state and local health and safety officials, health care providers, caregivers, corporations, and volunteers.
"AAA has been working with Mayor Menino for the past six years to pass a booster seat law," said Art Kinsman, director of government affairs for AAA Southern New England. "We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration to educate parents about the importance of booster seats."
For more information, and to learn about programs that offer booster seats in Boston, go to http://www.bphc.org.
- BPHC -