New law has kids going back in the booster seat

FRESNO, Calif.

"That's an embarrassment to have to go to school and sit in the front seat or even the back seat and sit in a booster seat," said Shayna McKinley.

Her Father agreed.

"I think its ridiculous myself, said Scott McKinley. "There's girls in high school that would have to be in a booster seat to go to school. My wife would almost have to be in a booster seat now."

Other families in Fresno supported the new regulations.

"I think it's fantastic and a great way to keep people safe," said Joyce McIntosh. "A few years ago my granddaughter and I were in an accident and if she wouldn't have been in a safety seat, I would have lost her."

The previous state law required children to remain in booster seats until they reached age six or 60 pounds. The new law eliminates the weight limit. It's a change safety experts here in the valley have advocated for years.

"We knew on a national level what "Best Practice" was," said Carlos Flores, Trauma Coordinator at Children's Hospital of Central California. "We knew the old California law did not meet that standard and we also knew other states enacted the law, we were actually behind."

Thursday morning, Children's Hospital Trauma Coordinator Carlos Flores, as well as Fresno police officer John Belli, demonstrated the proper way to use a booster seat and how to determine whether your child needs one. They said safety restraints fit correctly when the shoulder belt crosses the center of the chest and steers clear of the face and neck. They also said, the lap belt should sit low on the hips and touch the upper thighs.

"If the lap belt sits too high on the abdomen and there's a collision, what can happen is very serious bowel injury, bladder injury and something known as a "Chance Fracture," which is a lumbar spine injury."

Flores said children under 12 should also sit in the back seat.

"If the child is under the age of 12 and in the front seat, what can happen is that once the airbag deploys, and that thing is coming out at about 200 miles-per-hour, it can actually cause severe injury and, in an infant, can cause fatality," he said.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health said parents should use the "5-step Test" to determine whether the child is ready to transition to a seat belt. It says parents should ask themselves, can my child sit all the way back against the seat? Does my child's knees bend naturally over the edge of the seat cushion? Does the shoulder belt cross over the center of my child's shoulder and chest? Does the lap belt cross his or her hips and thighs, not the stomach? And finally, can my child stay seated in this position during the whole trip? If any of the 5-Step Test questions are answered with a "No," Fresno county health officials said, the child must remain in a car seat or booster seat until the safety belt fits properly.

In California, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death and hospitalization among children under 16 years of age. The new law also requires everyone in the car to be properly buckled up. For each person under 16, who is not properly secured, parents and drivers can be fined more than $475 per child and receive a point against their driving record.

Fresno police said they've been lenient in enforcing the law, these past couple of weeks, to give parents a chance to educate themselves. Officers are planning to crack down on drivers more heavily starting next month.

For more information on the new law, call the Fresno County Department of Public Heath Child RideSafe Program at 559-600-3281 or visit www.cdph.ca.gov/vosp.

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