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Statehouse sees new effort to require booster seats for kids

PHOENIX – Arizona is one of three states that don’t require booster seats after children graduate from car seats, but a Republican lawmaker said she’s determined to change that despite years of failed attempts at the state Legislature.

“It’s time we join the other states,” said Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City. “Using a booster seat will certainly keep these children safer, so I hope we can get something passed.”

HB 2154 would require passengers younger than 8 years old and shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches to ride in booster seats. The measure would apply to vehicles made in 1972 and later and to those carrying 10 or fewer passengers.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing Thursday, Feb. 2, before the House Transportation Committee.

For nearly 20 years, the National Transportation Safety Board has urged states to pass laws such laws, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued its own recommendation. Only Arizona, South Dakota and Florida have yet to enact laws.

Arizona’s current law requires children to be in car seats until age 5.

McLain said a law is needed because children who are too old for car seats must be secured by seat belts until age 16, but belts designed for adults don’t fit smaller children properly.

According to AAA Arizona, children ages 5-8 are 71 percent more likely to die in accidents if not placed in booster seats.

“Parents and caregivers look to the law for guidance,” said Michelle Donati, spokeswoman for AAA Arizona. “Unfortunately, Arizona’s current law does not give parents and caregivers good advice to the best way to properly protect their child.”

Alberto Gutier, director of Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said even with a law requiring booster seats it would still be essential for parents to know how to use them properly.

“If the bill makes it through the Legislature and becomes a law, that’s fine and great, but the key is training and education,” he said.

When a similar bill was proposed last year, McLain was initially against it. But she said she changed her view after talking with AAA Arizona.

“I was told about how dangerous seat belts could be for a lot of children and that booster seats are needed to keep them safe,” she said. “That’s why I changed my vote.”

Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, who has pressed for a booster seat law in previous sessions, said the change is long overdue.

”It doesn’t matter whose name is on the bill,” he said. “As long as you’re saving kids’ lives.”

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