Report card grades states on motor vehicle safety laws for children

March 1, 2014

The number of states with good booster seat laws has risen from 0 in 1989 to 31 plus the District of Columbia, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS). However, no state passed a new booster seat law in 2013.

 

The number of states with good booster seat laws has risen from 0 in 1989 to 31 plus the District of Columbia, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS). However, no state passed a new booster seat law in 2013.

The definition of a good booster seat law, according to AHAS, is that, at a minimum, children aged 4 to 7 years are placed in booster seats certified by the manufacturer to meet US Department of Transportation safety standards.

The organization follows the enactment of highway safety laws nationally and released its report card as many states began their 2014 legislative sessions.

Sixteen states (Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Carolina) have booster seat laws for part of the age group but not for all children aged to 7 years.

The report points to the estimate by the Partners for Child Passenger Safety that “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%.”

Three states (Florida, Ohio, and South Dakota) either have not adopted any booster seat law or have a law that permits only secondary enforcement, which means that law enforcement officers may enforce the booster seat law only if they stop a vehicle for another issue. They cannot stop a vehicle only for nonuse of the booster seat.

All states have child safety seat laws, most often for children aged younger than 4 to 6 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In January, NHTSA proposed an upgrade to the standards for child safety seats that would include side impact tests. Under the rule, the car seats “must demonstrate they can safely restrain a child by preventing harmful head contact with an intruding vehicle door and reducing the crash forces transmitted to the child’s head and chest.”

In the area of adolescent driving laws, AHAS says that no state currently meets all 7 of its recommendations for graduated driver’s license laws for teenagers, which are: minimum age for a learner’s permit of 16 years; a 6-month period when a beginning adolescent driver must be supervised by an adult licensed driver; 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving with an adult; prohibiting unsupervised night driving during an intermediate stage; limits on the number of teenaged passengers who can ride with an adolescent driver without adult supervision; prohibition on all use of cellular devices for adolescent drivers; and requiring teenaged drivers to be aged 18 years for an unrestricted license.

Thirteen states meet at least 5 of these laws, 5 states meet fewer than 2. Most states have the 6-month period of required adult supervision, but only 8 have the minimum age of 16 years for the learner’s permit. Only 15 states have the law for unrestricted driving only for those aged 18 years and older.

The number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes increased in 2012 by 3.3%-to 33,561. However, this was the first increase since 2005, which recorded 43,510 fatalities. Preliminary data from NHTSA show there was a decline in motor vehicle fatalities in the first half of 2013.

 

Ms Foxhall is a freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area. She has nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that might have an interest in any part of this article.