Before you take off on that family road trip, check out the child restraint laws in the states you’ll be passing through and visiting. Many states have fairly new booster seat requirements, and legislation is pending in others.

Partners for Passenger Child Safety, a research collaboration, is pushing hard for legislation that would require all states to enforce usage of belt-positioned booster seats for kids ages 4 through 8. Their research results are compelling enough: 71% of serious injuries to kids in this age group are to the head and face. If the child is restrained by a seat belt only, he is four times more likely to suffer a brain injury than a child who is in a booster; and the brain is the organ least likely to recover from an injury. Bottom line: Using a booster seat with a seat belt instead of a seat belt alone reduces a child’s risk of injury in a crash by 59%. (PCPS, 2003)

Carseats were first required in 1977. Until recently, boosters have been required for kids ages 4 to 6 or kids who weigh between 40 and 60 pounds. Now many states follow the recommendation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and require children to use a booster until they are at least 8 years old or 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Height is the most important factor when fitting a child in a seat belt. Boosters raise the child so that the shoulder strap is in a better position across the child?s lap and shoulders.

In many states, drivers can be stopped and ticketed if a child is riding without the proper restraint. The fines vary. For a list of list of booster seat laws by state, check out this link. The website, www.saferoads.org, is a great resource for all kinds of on-the-road safety questions. If you have friends or family visiting from another state or country, send them the link.

For tips on installing a carseat, refer to www.nhtsa.dot.gov.