Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

LPD aims to educate parents on booster seat law

April 20, 2006

If parents think they've been hearing more about putting their children in vehicle booster seats lately, they're probably right - the Kansas Legislature passed a bill this year that would keep children in booster seats for a longer period of time.

The new provisions state that children must ride in a vehicle booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, 80 pounds or 8 years old. In Kansas now, children are only required to be in safety seats until age 3, and children ages 4 through 14 must wear a safety belt while in a vehicle.

The booster seat law will go into effect July 1. For a year, police officers will provide warnings, but after July 1, 2007, they will issue citations for children not riding in a booster seat.

The fine will increase from $20 to $60 for a child not properly buckled and in a safety seat plus court costs, which in Lansing are $25. Court costs will be waived if a parent buys a booster seat for the child.

Lansing Police Officer Brian Duncan already has started educating parents about the new law and the reasons behind it. On April 11, he visited the Lansing Parent-Teacher Association to inform members about booster seats and child safety.

"We can talk to the kids all day long" about buckling up, said Duncan, who is a child passenger safety technician for LPD. "It's got to be the parent that enforces it."

Duncan said groups including Safe Kids of Kansas and Kansas Highway Patrol had lobbied for the booster seat requirement. Seat belts alone cannot protect young children, he said, because seat belts are designed for adults.

Booster seats raise a child up "so the body structure they have will ride out a crash," Duncan said.

Without a booster seat, a seat belt cuts across a child's stomach, where it can cause internal injuries in an accident, and the shoulder portion of the belt may rub on his neck, causing irritation or injury.

With a booster seat, the seat belt rests lower - across the child's hips and shoulder, as intended.

The sooner parents learn about the new law, the better, Duncan said, especially if they have children who have been out of booster seats and will have to go back to using them. The longer parents wait to put their kids back in the booster, he cautioned, the more resistance they're likely to face.

To help parents navigate the new restrictions and the different types of car seats, Lansing Police will have a safety check event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at Main Street Center, 844 N. Main St.

Parents attending the event should bring the car seat and child so Duncan and other child passenger safety technicians can check the fit of the seat in the car and the child in the seat. They will check to see whether the seat has been recalled by the manufacturer. If parents do not have a booster seat, there will be some available for a $15 donation, Duncan said.

At the event, technicians will properly install seats and teach parents to do the same. They also will answer any questions parents have. Each inspection will take about 30 to 45 minutes, Duncan said.

Duncan also will visit Lansing Elementary School next month to educate students about why they need to be in a booster seat. He will visit the school May 18 and 19 to check students' height and weight; those who need to be in a booster seat will receive a note to bring home to their parents informing them about the new law, he said.

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