Thu, April 02

Proposed law would require booster seats for children younger than 9

PHOENIX -- Motorists who drive around children younger than 9 may soon have to purchase special booster seats.

On a 34-24 vote Tuesday, the House gave final approval to legislation saying that simply buckling your child up is not enough. Instead, the youngsters would have to be positioned in a way to make the seat belt not only more effective but less dangerous.

In separate action Tuesday, the Senate gave final approval to a bill to ban texting while driving and sent SB 1538 to the House.

That 18-12 vote came over the objections of Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa. He said there already are "plenty of laws' on the books to deal with distracted driving, "whether it's putting on make-up, whether it's tending to your kids in the back seat because you have to turn around and do some corrective action.'

The measure on booster seats is designed to deal with what proponents see as a gap in the law.

Children younger than four have to be in specially designed Existing statutes also require all front-seat occupants of vehicles to use installed seat belts when the vehicle is moving.

seats. And the law says those younger than 16 must be belted, no matter where they are sitting.

The problem, according to proponents, is that seat belts were not designed for smaller people. So when there is a crash, a child can actually slide underneath the seat belt.

And in some situations, a child could actually be in a position where the spine snaps, causing permanent paralysis.

The booster seat is designed to raise the child a few inches so the belt sits in the proper position.

Tuesday's vote could be the best chance ever to get such a measure enacted.

The Senate approved similar measures in each of the last two years, only to have the proposals die in the House.

Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, said she had been among those who had opposed the idea in the past. All that changed, she said, after speaking to a pediatric physician who reminded her that children already have to be belted in.

"But without the booster seats, we're telling them to restrain their child in a very unsafe manner,' McLain said.

Stuart Goodman, who lobbies for AAA Arizona, said the seats can be purchased for as little as $10. And he said there are programs which provide free seats to those in need.

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