AAA: Using a Restraint Doesn’t Need to be a Hassle

March 17, 2005

According to Jeff Ogden, president of AAA Minnesota/Iowa, using a child restraint for automobile passengers can be done without the hassle. Ogden offered the following opinion on the matter.

“The Minnesota State Senate recently passed a bill that would require children under age 9 and weighing less than 80 pounds to be in an appropriate child restraint system. Because more children die in motor vehicle crashes than from all childhood diseases combined, AAA strongly supports legislation that tries to reduce the number of
childhood deaths on Minnesota’s roads.

“Minnesota has one of the weakest child restraint laws in the nation. The current law states that children under age 4 must be in an approved child restraint system, and children ages 4 to 11 must be restrained, but allows that restraint to be an adult seat belt. The current law can give parents the false impression that after age three, children are safe when restrained with an adult seat belt.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. A young child wearing only an
adult safety belt can suffer serious or fatal injury if the safety belt rides
up over the child’s stomach or neck. In fact, recent research conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Companies indicates that appropriate child restraints for this age group reduces the injury rate in car crashes by 59 percent over adult seat belts used alone.

“Belt-positioning child restraint systems play a critical role in transitioning children from a child seat (with its own harness) to an adult lap and shoulder belt. A child restraint system helps correctly position safety belts so that the lap belt rests on your child’s thighs below the hipbone rather than on the soft tissue intestinal area, while the shoulder belt crosses the middle of your child’s chest and does not cut into his or her neck.

“This issue is not about deciding what is best for your child such as which school to attend, which religion to participate in, or which jacket to wear. The non-use of child restraint systems is a public health issue and hazard since we all are affected by the unnecessary injuries and deaths that occur.

“Under the proposed legislation, the first offense of this law and resulting fine of $50 may be waived if proof of purchase of a child restraint system occurs within 14 days. Since the average booster seat costs $20-$30, buying a child restraint system is less than paying the fine.

“Some parents are concerned they would be breaking the law in an emergency in which a child needs to be transported without a child restraint system. Law enforcement already has discretion in emergency situations, and this would not change.

“At AAA, we have heard both sides of the issue. We understand that some parents believe passing this legislation would be difficult for the carpooling parent. Using a child restraint system doesn’t need to be a hassle. The light-weight portable backless booster seat can be easily moved from one vehicle to the next.

“When children play sports, parents often buy correct-fitting safety gear so their children don’t get injured even though it costs them a bit more money. Buying an additional $20 booster seat may cost them a few extra dollars; however, they are being consistent in wanting to keep children safe.

“Comparatively speaking, when children outgrow their shoes, it may be a hassle to replace them, but most parents will buy them shoes that fit well. When children outgrow their child safety seat, parents can think of buying a booster seat as something that fits them better than an adult seat belt.

“At AAA, we educate parents and caregivers through child safety clinics, speaking presentations to Mom’s Clubs, ECFE groups and local organizations, however, parents continue to look to the law to help determine what is safe for their child. Our education efforts will continue, but we need the additional component of the law to help parents and caregivers make a safer choice for their children.”

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