December 2, 2008
Texas lawmakers are ready to take another stab at passing a booster seat law for children over age 3.
Last week, Texas was singled out by the National Transportation Safety Board as one of seven states lacking a booster seat law.
The agency, which investigates transportation accidents, cited a booster seat law as one of the five things it would like states to either adopt or improve in 2009.
“We’re urging states to take a number of actions to reduce the number of crashes and the number of deaths and injuries,” NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said.
Currently, 43 states and the District of Columbia require use of booster seats, although only 21 states and D.C. require them up through age 7. In Texas, only children who are younger than 5 and shorter than 36 inches are required to be secured properly in child-passenger safety seats.
Board member Debbie Hersman said seat belts fail to help children who are not propped up by a booster seat.
“Children who are too small for seat belts need a booster seat to position the seat belt properly,” Hersman said, adding that a booster seat can be had for as little as $15.
Without a booster seat, a seat belt can injure a child through choking or causing abdominal injuries during a crash.
The agency recommended that Texas and the other six states — Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Ohio and South Dakota — pass laws that provide protection for children over age 3, in the form of a booster seat.
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, wrote such a bill in 2007, but it died in the Texas House of Representatives because no action was taken on it before the legislative session ended. She has refiled the bill for the 2009 session.
Without a booster seat law, children are being improperly buckled into vehicles, she said.
“I was approached by pediatricians who explained to me how important that is,” she said. “Some (children) have been hurt severely because they were not in booster seats.”
If passed, her bill would allow for a one-year warning period before parents could be ticketed in 2010.
State Sen. Kirk Watson, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, said he’d like to see Texas finally pass such a bill.
“We’re one of half a dozen states that haven’t done this, and that tells you something,” Watson said. “It is a sign that we’re out of step.”