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Booster seat bill fails in Utah House committee

By | Posted - Feb. 8, 2011 at 4:41 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill pitched as a parental rights issue to allow moms and dads to not use booster seats in cars for children ages 5 to 7 narrowly failed in a House committee Tuesday.

But Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, said after the meeting he intends to poll his colleagues who missed the vote in attempt to resurrect House Bill 258.

Booster seats reduce injury risk by 45% compared to seat belts alone. -Pediatrics

"It's frustrating. I was told a long time ago that the facts don't matter. It's all about emotion," he said after the House Transportation Committee defeated his bill 6-5. Herrod unsuccessfully ran a similar measure last year.

Children older than 5 but younger than 8 wouldn't have to be in a booster seat on roads where the speed limit is 45 mph or less, according to the bill. Those children, though, would have to wear seat belts. Utah law requires children under age 5 to be in car seats.

"I believe in booster seats. The fact of the matter is there are times when they are not practical," Herrod said.

Herriman resident Gary Sorensen told the committee he wished he would have used one 6 years ago. His son became a quadriplegic after a car crash in which he was wearing a lap belt three days after turning 8, he said.

"It should not be about freedom of choice or convenience," he said. "It should be about the love a child."

Did you know...
In 2009:
  • 3,493 children age 4-7 years were passengers in vehicle crashes in Utah. 470 were injured, 3 were killed.
  • Unrestrained child occupants were almost 5 times more likely to be injured in a crash than children in booster seats.
  • Booster seat use increased 45% from 2007-09, after passage of the booster seat law.
  • Nearly half (41%) of unrestrained children in crashed were injured or killed compared to 13% of children in booster seats.
  • $928,000 was spent in Utah at hospitals and emergency departments to treat injuries to child occupants age 4-7 years in traffic crashes.
  • The estimated savings to society for each booster seat purchased is $1,854.
-Utah Dept. of Public Safety

Herrod said the state's booster seat law is just another government intrusion on parents' ability to make choices.

"Where's the line with parental responsibility?" he said. "When do you take away my right as a parent?"

He quoted statistics that he said showed children in or out of booster seats are no more risk for injury in a crash at 45 mph or less. "That's how I came up with the 45 mph," he said.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake, said a lot of damage could be done at that speed.

"It just seems like to pick a number like that doesn't make a lot of sense," she said. "Most people don't plot their course based on speed limits."

Janet Brooks, Primary Children's Medical Center child advocacy manager, said statistics show children are safer in booster seats.

"We know children are killed at any speed," she said. "Are our children 5 to 8 years old any less deserving of protection?"


Story written by Dennis Romboy, with contributions from John Daley.

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