Georgia Enacts Amended Child Safety Restraint Law

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into effect a bill that amends the state motor vehicle inspection code to strengthen the state’s existing child passenger safety law.

The original law only required children ages 5 and under and who were 4-feet, 9-inches or shorter to be restrained in a child passenger restraint system in a rear seat. This left 6- and 7-year-old children at serious risk of injury in motor vehicle crashes because they were authorized to use safety restraints designed for adult passengers. The amended law signed on May 9 requires that all children under the age of eight traveling in a motor vehicle be secured using appropriate child restraint equipment, including child restraint systems and booster seats.

The new law extends to public transit vehicles, defined by the state as including buses “used for the transportation of passengers within a system which receives a subsidy from tax revenues or is operated under a franchise contract with a county or municipality of this state.”

Booster seats are no longer recommended for school bus passengers because the vehicles ride much different than passenger vehicles. Nearly three years ago, NHTSA’s curriculum “Child Safety Restraint Systems in School Buses” removed a chapter on booster seats because of the increased possibility of injuries. Instead, a slide was added that indicates that booster seats are not to be used in school buses.

Lap belts installed in smaller Type A variety buses don’t protect the torso, so using a booster seat adds nothing to the safety of the child and could increase the risk of injury. Instead, four- or five-point harnesses should be used in those cases. And when lap/shoulder belts are required as of October 2011, those systems in school buses already act like booster seats because they are adjustable, unlike those in regular passenger vehicles.

In 1996, the NTSB recommended to the states and territories that mandatory child restraint laws include a requirement for the use of child restraint systems and booster seats for children up to eight years of age. Currently, 47 states and the District of Columbia require the use of child safety seats beyond age 4, but only 29 states mandate their use through age 7.