Bill would raise age rule for kids riding in car seats

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.

ecarpenter@examiner.com


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