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Fall 2009
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New Law Gives Texas Kids a Boost!

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Texas has a new child passenger safety law.

Earlier this summer, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 61, which requires all children younger than eight years old to ride in a car seat or booster seat unless they are 4’9” or taller. This new law, which went into effect Sept. 1, 2009, strengthens the previous version of the law that did not require older children to ride in booster seats, leaving thousands of children at risk for seat-belt injuries or improperly used seat belts.

A booster seat is used for children who have outgrown their car seats with harnesses, but are too small for adult-sized seat belts. Boosters help protect kids in that in-between stage by keeping the seat belt on the strongest part of the body by “boosting” them up.

Advocates across the state are celebrating the success of SB 61, sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini and Representative Allan Vaught, particularly since the 81st Texas legislative session was the third time the subject of strengthening the child passenger safety law had been debated.

Among the supporters was the Trauma Service group at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, which was instrumental in advocating for tougher child passenger safety legislation. Dr. Todd Maxson, medical director of Trauma Services, and Paula Yuma, manager of the Injury Prevention Program, both advocated for the new law and participated in a state-wide advocacy effort that involved clinicians, law enforcement, health educators, paramedics and families.

Even though the new law went into effect Sept. 1, law enforcement officials will issue warnings until June 1, 2010. This grace period will provide time for families to become aware of the new law and, for those who are unable to purchase booster seats, the opportunity to access community resources. After June 1, 2010, officials will begin issuing a $25 citation for the first offense and up to $250 for a second offense.

For more information about child passenger safety, go online to Dell Children’s Medical Center or Safe Kids USA, which is part of a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury, a leading killer of children 14 years old and younger.

If you need assistance with installing your child safety seat, call (512) 324-TOTS for information about upcoming community events.

Tips for Child Safety in Cars

Safe Kids Austin, a city-wide coalition dedicated to preventing child injury, recommends the following tips for riding safely in the car:

  • Restrain all children in their appropriate car seat, booster seat or seat belt on every trip.
  • Place kids between approximately 40 and 80 pounds in a booster seat.
  • Never put shoulder belts under kids' arms or behind their backs. This could result in serious injuries in the event of a crash.
  • Never boost kids with pillows, books or towels. These won't keep kids safe in a crash.
  • If your car's seat back is lower than the child's ears, use a high-back booster seat. If your car's seat back is higher than the child's ears, use a no-back booster seat.
  • Put kids in the back seat. Children are 36 percent less likely to die in a crash when restrained in the back.

Even more detailed information on child passenger safety is available on the Safe Kids USA Web site.

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Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.