Child booster seat bill moving through Ariz. legislature

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- A booster seat bill cleared another major hurdle Wednesday at the Arizona State Legislature after the Senate voted in favor of it. 

Arizona is one of only three states that don't require older children to ride in booster seats, as bills have repeatedly failed at the state legislature.

Advocates say car seats for infants and toddlers are obvious, but the booster seat, not so much, and for that reason it is often overlooked.

The problem is most children ages five to eight are too small for regular seat belts to protect them and that's why many doctors and the American Automobile Association of Arizona are hoping the state will act to change the law.

“We know parents and caregivers look to the law for guidance and unfortunately the guidance our law currently gives them is not keeping our children safe,” said Michelle Donati, spokesperson for the AAA of Arizona.

Doctors say it’s frustrating because every year children are dying and being seriously injured as a result.

“It's very important once you transfer your children out of a child seat that you transfer them into a booster transition seat until that child is four-feet-nine or taller,” said Dr. David Notrica, Trauma Medical Director at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, car crashes are the number one cause of death for children five to eight years old and proper seat belt positioning with use of a booster seat will reduce serious injury, such as paralysis, by as much as 60 percent.

“It's always families after the fact that say I wish I would have known and  we don't want that after the fact, we want to prevent that from happening at all,” said pediatrician Sara Bode.

She says she sees children injured in car accidents all the time primarily because they are improperly restrained, too small for an adult seat belt to save their life.

She tells parents at her practice, a booster seat for children less than 4 foot nine is a must. 

“I think if parents understood how much injury it could save they would be very willing to do that.

Still State legislators have routinely voted any potential booster seat law down.

“I have been a no vote on this bill,” said Rep. Nancy McLain. 

But McLain is the first to admit when she is wrong and this year is sponsoring House Bill 2154 which would change the law so children under eight and less than four-feet-nine inches would have to be in a booster.

It's very similar to the same law that has failed several times before but for some reason this year it sailed through the House and passed in the Senate committee unanimously. 

“I'm excited to see senators previously against the bill have been converted if you will.”

“We're doing this to prevent injury not just to prevent death,” said Dr. Notrica.

After all, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 5 children between ages 5 and 8 were killed in 2010 as a result of not being properly restrained and another 61 were hospitalized.

In 2006 it was 17 children killed and 155 hospitalized.