March 4th, 2011
07:00 AM ET

Booster seat laws: what you need to know

The Georgia senate passed a bill on Thursday that raises child car seat requirements in that state to include all children younger than age 8, with an exemption for those younger than 8 that are at least 4 feet and 9 inches tall, and weigh at least 40 pounds. Parents will be fined $50 if they don't comply. Georgia's House passed a similar bill earlier in the week.

Although many parents don't take issue with the recommendations, some are weighing in and calling House Bill 279 a "nanny bill" and a "waste of lawmaking time."  In a blog posted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, several parents voiced their support of the bill, whiles others asked “don’t our elected officials have anything better to debate?”

Georgia is actually one of many states with increased child restraint legislation. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), at least 20 other states have laws requiring children under age 8 to remain in a booster seat, with two states Nevada and Wyoming having laws to include children under age 9.

According to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 3 to 14, with 32% of fatalities involving children who were unrestrained.

Transportation safety officials say putting your child in car seats reduces their risk of dying in a car crash by 71% for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54% for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars.

“The important thing for parents to understand is that this is about safety,” explains Michele Fields of the IIHS. “Children should never ride unrestrained.” Fields says to remember 3 key things when you are prepping your child for a car ride:


When children are seated in the rear of the car, with their backs against the seat, if their knees do not bend naturally, then they are not yet ready to sit in the car without a car seat.

.- The belt should be fitted low on the child's abdomen. This protects their abdominal cavity from injury.

- The shoulder strap of the seatbelt should not cut against their neck. It should cross their torso between the neck and shoulder.

If you’re in the process of looking for the right car seat for your child, the IIHS has a status report which includes a comparison of booster seats and which works best for your car, and here here’s a breakdown of the general requirements based on your child’s age.

INFANT SEAT: infants remain in this seat until a minimum of age 1 and at least 20 pounds.

TODDLER SEAT: for toddlers from age 1 to age 4 who are between 20- 40 lbs.

BOOSTER SEAT: for children from about age 4 to at least age 8, or until the child reaches 4'9"

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