For Ignacio Guerrero, buckling his kids into safety seats when they climb into the family’s Honda Accord in the morning is a matter of common sense. It’s not a reflection of oft-cited accident statistics showing that the seats save lives — although such reports only reassure his thinking.
The father of 3- and 5-year-old boys, he wholeheartedly supports a new bill, authored by Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-San Mateo, that would extend by two years the period that children must be seated in a safety or booster seat when riding in a vehicle to their eighthbirthday.
“There are times when we are in the carpool lane when people pull out in front of us and I think, ‘Gosh, I’m glad they’re in their safety seat,’” said Guerrero, a board member for the nonprofit Fatherhood Collaborative, an advocacy group promoting responsible fatherhood.
Under the bill, which was approved by the Assembly on Monday and now heads to the Senate, a state law that currently requires children under 6 years of age to be in a safety seat would be extended to 6- and 7-year-olds, Mullin said. There would be limited exceptions, such as in the case of kids 4 feet 9 inches or taller, Mullin said.
“No one argues that you’re going to save lives and save kids from being injured [by passing this bill],” Mullin said, emphasizing that parents, in most cases, would be able to avoid a new purchase by using the same safety seat they used for their 5-year-old.
Safety experts say data about car crashes involving children are a major factor in trying to pass the bill and convincing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign it a year after he vetoed similar legislation.
“Right now, car crashes are the No. 1 killer of kids over age 4,” said Melanie Sadek, manager of traffic safety for AAA of Northern California.
Between 1999 and 2002 alone, 53 children between 6 and 7 years old died and 933 were injured in car crashes, according to data from the California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health, a sponsor of the bill.
“For every 100 children who were killed in a crash wearing only a seat belt, 28 of them would have survived if they were in a car or booster seat,” said Judy Miller, spokeswoman for the coalition.
Should children have to sit in car safety or booster seats until age 8?
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