Since 2004 state law has required child safety seat usage until the age of six, effective July 1st children must now be secured in a booster seat until age eight or 4’9″. The 2004 booster seat law was named “Madison’s Law” after a young Madison Harty survived a catastrophic crash when an SUV smashed into the side of the minivan she was traveling in. First responders credited Madison’s miraculous survival to the booster seat she was properly secured in.
According to Carol Ball, a program consultant with the state Department of Public Health’s injury prevention office, a nine county area in the Coastal Health District, including Chatham and Effingham counties, have the highest rate of serious auto related accidents among four and five year olds. These statistics show serious concern for child safety while traveling in vehicles.
Factory installed seat belts are intended for adult use and do not properly fit a child under 50lbs or 4’9″, booster seats raise children up so the adult belt is properly fitted. Parents often find themselves confronted with a child’s resilient nagging that when fitted into a seat belt it is uncomfortable or hurts, frequently resulting in the shoulder belt thrown behind the back or the lap belt strung across the stomach, a useless approach to the safety belt. Booster seats raise the child to a position that will allow the shoulder belt to fit properly across the chest and shoulders, not the neck, and the lap belt to stretch low across the hips and thigh bones, not the belly. The most extraordinary benefit to the use of booster seats is that they reduce automobile accident injuries by 59 percent.
The 2011 law, having gone into effect July 1st, requires that every child under the age of eight be secured in a booster seat appropriate for their height and weight and installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The law also requires that children under age eight ride in the rear seat. There are exceptions to the law if the adult driver can show that the child under age eight is 4’9″ in height or are required by medical personnel to avoid safety restraint systems because of preexisting health conditions. Other exemptions include taxi and public transportation.
The law provides that any person transporting a child under age eight and not properly secured in a booster seat receive a first fine of $50 and one point on their driver’s license. A second citation will result in a doubled fine and two points. A citation may be written for every child not properly secured within the vehicle.