A new law that goes into effect in Georgia this Friday will be a crucial step in closing the gap between Georgia law and federal guidelines when it comes to child seat safety laws and protecting children in car accidents.
Beginning July 1, the minimum age for a child to stop using a booster seat will change from 6 to 8. However, children under the age of 8 who weigh more than 40 pounds and are more than 4 feet 9 inches tall will be exempted from the law. Children who are less than 40 pounds and shorter than 57 inches tall are just too small to properly be restrained by a vehicle's seatbelt alone. They will be required to use a booster seat or 5-point harness.
Statistics show that only about 12% of children between the ages of 6 and 8 are currently using booster seats so there will be a lot of children going back into booster seats that had previously been using only the vehicle's lap and shoulder belt. But the bright side is this: statistics also show that children who are properly restrained have a much greater chance of surviving a motor vehicle collision with minor injuries or no injuries at all.
While children may reach the age where all they are required to use is a booster seat, experts agree that car seats with a 5-point harness are the best protection for children less than 100 pounds. The reason is this simple: the 5-point harness system is designed to distribute the forces of a car crash across the strongest bones of a child's body--the shoulders, chestbone and thigh bones--and minimize the strain placed on the child's neck and spine. The fact that a child has reached the minimum requirement to begin using a booster seat does not mean that it is the safest choice.
For more information on children's safety in cars, please see our September 30, 2010 post about car seats. We posted great videos that demonstrate what a difference a 5-point harness can make in a car crash.