Two New Laws Protect Children in Cars
With holiday traffic on the road, it’s more important than ever to make sure all of your car’s passengers are safe. Two recently passed New York State laws are aimed at keeping children safe during the holidays and all year long.
Child Restraint Law
As of today, November 24, 2009, New York State law will require children up to age eight to use booster seats, car seats or other appropriate child restraint systems when riding in vehicles. Until now, the law covered children up to seven years old. The change enhances safety for children who have outgrown car seats, but still need booster seats to ensure that seat belts fit correctly and provide the best possible protection.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children ride in a child car safety seat with a five-point harness until their shoulders are above the top set of strap slots (usually until they are about four years old). When children have outgrown their safety seats, it's time to move on to the next step of child passenger safety -- an age/size appropriate restraint, such as a belt-positioning booster seat.
Belt-positioning boosters (BPB) are recommended for children who are four to eight years old and weigh at least 40 pounds and are up to 4 feet 9 inches tall. A booster seat raises the child up so that the lap and shoulder belts in the vehicle fit properly. BPBs must never be used with a lap belt only. The two most common types of booster seats are:
- Booster seats without a back (backless or low-back) are used in vehicles with a high seat back in which the child's head can be supported (up to the top of the ears) by the vehicle seat back or head restraint.
- High-back booster seats are used in vehicles with a low seat back in which the child's head cannot be supported by the vehicle seat back or head restraint; some models have a removable back.
When your child rides in a booster seat, he or she is 59% less likely to be hurt or killed in a car crash than if he or she is using an improperly-fitting safety belt. "Car seats, booster seats and seat belts offer the best level of protection when they're used the right way," said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "As we look to create safer streets for everyone, the youngest set of New Yorkers is getting the boost they need with a new law that gives parents and caregivers clearer guidelines that allow them to provide a safer riding environments for their most precious cargo, their kids."
How do you know when your child is ready to use an adult safety belt? Use the Five-Step Test to find out:
1. Does your child sit all the way back against the seat of the car?
2. Do his knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat?
3. Does the safety belt cross the shoulder between the arm and neck?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the upper thighs?
5. Can your child remain in this position for the whole trip?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a stunning 90% of child restraints are installed incorrectly. To check to see if your car safety seat or booster seat is installed correctly, visit one of DOT's car safety seat inspection stations.
For more information, visit the DOT website at www.nyc.gov/dot or call 311.
Cracking Down on Drinking and Driving with Kids in the Car
Under the new Child Passenger Protection Act, also known as Leandra’s Law, it is now a felony in New York State to drive drunk or under the influence of drugs with a child in the vehicle. The Act will also require first-time driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles at their own expense.
Intoxicated drivers who cause serious injury to a child may be charged with a Class C felony punishable up to 15 years in prison, and drunk drivers who cause the death of a child will be charged with a Class B felony that could lead to 25 years in prison.