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PROPOSED BILL IN ARIZONA AIMS TO INCREASE CHILD PASSENGER SAFETY

The Arizona State Senate is currently considering a bill designed to enhance the safety of children in vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends a booster seat requirement for children of certain ages in cars, and Arizona is one of only three states that do mandate this recommendation.

The proposed law would require that all children ages five to eight or under four feet and nine inches tall to ride in booster seats. The bill was approved in the House and is now with the full Senate for approval following an overwhelming endorsement by the Public Safety and Human Services committee. Similar bills have been introduced in the past, but have always failed.

Why this Bill is so Important

Standard vehicle seat belts are often not made for children; children can slip out from underneath the seatbelt upon impact. Also, the force of the seatbelts may cause intestinal and spinal injuries in children. Doctors in the area claim to be educating families to use booster seats, but are frustrated that their recommendations are not backed up by state law.

Currently, Arizona law requires car seats for children under the age of five and seat belts for children ages five to 16. The Arizona Department of Health Services reports that in seven out of the nine car accident deaths occurring in 2009 involving children ages five to eight, the children involved were properly restrained in a booster seat.

Drivers in Arizona who do not properly restrain children under the age of five are subject to a $50 fine. The fine may not be imposed if the driver can show that he or she has since properly installed a child safety seat. There are exceptions; the child safety seat requirement varies depending upon the age and weight of the child. In addition, police officers cannot pull over a potential offender without reasonable cause to believe that the driver has committed another moving violation, such as speeding.

The safety of Arizona's children is unquestionably important, and the unnecessary loss of a child through improper use of child safety seats or seatbelts is both devastating and preventable. Hopefully the legislature will work speedily to pass this bill and better ensure the safety of Arizona's smallest inhabitants.

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