Come Sunday, the New Year rings in new state laws including one designed to increase safety for children 6 and 7 years old with new car seat requirements.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new booster seat law on Oct. 4th that will take effect on Jan. 1. The previous law required children under 6 or under 60 pounds to be secured in a rear seat passenger restraint system that meets the mandated federal guidelines. Children under the age of 12 were also required to be passengers in the rear seat, unless younger children currently occupied them.
The new law will impose fines and penalties for violators who transport children under the age of 8 without securing them in an appropriate child passenger restraint system that meets the federal motor vehicle safety standards. The bill does contain a provision for taller children who can safely use a car seat belt. A child who is at least 4 feet 9 inches tall may be properly restrained with a seat belt rather than a booster seat system.
Some local parents expressed a lack of knowledge of the new law's existence and others believed it to already be in full force since the signing in October. Sydney Myers reflected on her nephew's view.
"He is really unhappy about it," she said. "He has been out of a seat for a while and now has to go back to one."
Others reflect upon the expense of having gotten rid of their booster seats and now they have to repurchase one. Most find the only thing that matters is the overall safety of their children.
"As a mom I love it! I believe it to be much safer and now I have the law to back me with my kids," said Bethany Snedeker Wilson.
Maren Bettiga Wagner agreed. "I kept mine in them, so they will not even know the difference," she said.
Most people who have voiced concerns with the new law reflected on the hassle of the extended time frame, but see the overshadowing value.
Safe Kids Trauma, part of Safe Kids USA which is a network of organizations working to prevent unintentional childhood injury, voiced support for the new requirements.
"The new law will protect hundreds of children every year from intra-abdominal injury, lumbar chance fractures, or multi-system trauma from ejection due to inappropriate restraints," it said in a statement.
What do the local youth have to say about this new change? One local youngster -- with a look of horror at the loss of their impending freedom -- asked his parent, "They can't do that to me. You said we were getting rid of it this year!"
Carolyn Bueno Parlato expressed concern over the confusion for her children.
"How do you explain to a 7-year-old that you told was safe in a seat belt only to tell them they now are not and have to go back to a booster seat?" she asked.
Experts agree that the standard seat belt should hit across the shoulder and upper chest, while the seat belt's lap band should hit the hip area.
Now a grandmother, Theresa Moore Coleman said she always was concerned about how seat belts fit her children when they were growing up.
"The bottom line for me is that I have never felt comfortable with my kids being out of their car seats when it was clear that the seat belts in my car did not fit them very well," she said. "I was always afraid of them being strangled by the shoulder strap until they grew a little taller."
Chief Lon Winburn of the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department remembers incidents from past years when children were injured due to seat belts not properly fitting.
"Based on that knowledge, but not having read the bill itself, I believe it will be a positive thing," he said.
No matter which side of the seat belt bill you sit on, come Jan. 1 all children under 8 or less than 4 feet 9 inches tall will have to be secured in a federally standardized booster seat for their protection and safety. For more information, or to read the bill, contact your local police department or read the bill online at www.aroundthecapital.com/Bills/SD_929.