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Child restraint and booster seat law changes coming in January

Posted Thursday, December 9, 2004

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Senate Bill 1218, NC's "Booster Seat Law":

Changes to be in Effect January 2005

NC "Booster Seat Law" (Senate Bill 1218) Ratified

Senate Bill 1218 was ratified July 15, signed into law by Governor Easley's on August 17, 2004, and will go into effect January 1, 2005. Senate Bill 1218, introduced and sponsored by Senator William R. Purcell, can be considered to be a "booster seat" bill in that it will require most children less than age eight and 80 pounds to be restrained in a weight-appropriate child restraint.

This bill was one of the main legislative initiatives of the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force. The Task Force prepared a "Special Briefing Paper" detailing the need and rationale for this amendment to the NC CPS law. Information in this briefing paper is provided below.

History of Senate Bill 1218

• May 19, 2004: S1218 filed by in the Senate by Senator Purcell.

• May 20: Referred to the Senate Health & Human Resources Committee.

• May 26: Received a unanimous favorable report from the Health & Human Resources Committee.

• June 1: Approved by the Senate by a vote of 36 to 11.

• June 3: Received by the House of Representatives and referred to the House Committee on Children, Youth and Families.

• June 23: Committee substitute (amended version) received a favorable report from the House Committee on Children, Youth and Families.

• June 24: Withdrawn from the House calendar and re-referred to House Judiciary IV Committee.

• June 30: Committee substitute (amended version) received a favorable report from the House House Judiciary IV Committee.

• July 12: Approved by the House by a vote of 73 to 41

• July 13: Referred to Senate for concurrence

• July 14: Senate concurred on House Committee Substitute

• July 15: S1218 Ratified

• August 17: Signed into law by Governor Easley

Persons interested in reviewing the history of S1218 as it went through the legislative process can do so through the NC General Assembly web site.

Final Text of Senate Bill 1218

Following below is the final text of S1218 as ratified by the General Assembly:

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA
SESSION 2003

SENATE BILL 1218
RATIFIED BILL

AN ACT TO MODIFY THE CHILD RESTRAINT SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS AS
RECOMMENDED BY THE CHILD FATALITY TASK FORCE.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. G.S. 20-137.1(a1) reads as rewritten:
"(a1) A child less than five eight years of age and less than 40 80 pounds in weight shall be properly secured in a weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system. In vehicles equipped with an active passenger-side front air bag, if the vehicle has a rear seat, a child less than five years of age and less than 40 pounds in weight shall be properly secured in a rear seat, unless the child restraint system is designed for use with air bags. If no seating position equipped with a lap and shoulder belt to properly secure the weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system is available, a child less than eight years of age and between 40 and 80 pounds may be restrained by a properly fitted lap belt only."

SECTION 2. G.S. 20-137.1(c) reads as rewritten:
"(c)Any driver found responsible for a violation of this section may be punished by a penalty not to exceed twenty-five dollars ($25.00), even when more than one child less than 16 years of age was not properly secured in a restraint system. No driver charged under this section for failure to have a child under five eight years of age properly secured in a restraint system shall be convicted if he produces at the time of his trial proof satisfactory to the court that he has subsequently acquired an approved child passenger restraint system. system for a vehicle in which the child is normally transported.

SECTION 3. This act becomes effective January 1, 2005.

In the General Assembly read three times and ratified this the 15th day of July, 2004.

_____________________________________
Beverly E. Perdue
President of the Senate

_____________________________________
James B. Black
Speaker of the House of
Representatives

_____________________________________
Michael F. Easley
Governor

Approved __________.m. this ______________ day of ____________, 2004"


How Will This Bill Change the NC CPS Law?

The major change to the NC CPS law will be that in most cases, children will be required to be in a booster seat or some other type of child passenger restraint system until they reach eight years of age or 80 pounds, whichever comes first. The current threshold for switching to a properly fitted seat belt is on a child's 5th birthday or 40 pounds, whichever comes first.

Most drivers will be able to comply by using belt positioning booster seats, but other child restraints with harnesses rated for use over 40 pounds would be legal to use as well.

S1218 takes into consideration older vehicles that do not have lap and shoulder combination belts in the rear seat through the clause "If no seating position equipped with a lap and shoulder belt to properly secure the weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system is available, a child less than eight years of age and between 40 and 80 pounds may be restrained by a properly fitted lap belt only."

This clause also means that if the two outside lap and shoulder belt positions of a vehicle's rear seat are occupied, a child sitting in the middle lap belt only position can be restrained by just the lap belt. WARNING: Belt-positioning booster seats must NEVER be used with just a lap belt.

The only other changes that will go into effect January 1, 2005 are related to the penalty for a violation. Drivers cited for a violation of this law for a 5, 6, or 7 year old will be able to have the charges dismissed if they present proof to the court that they have acquired an appropriate restraint for that child. This provision is currently available only for violations related to children less than age 5. In addition, drivers cited for a violation of this law will be able to have the charges dismissed if they present proof to the court that they were in a vehicle not normally used to transport that child.

The full text of the current NC CPS Law and as it will read as of January 1, 2005 can be found on NC Child Passenger Safety Law - G.S. 20-137.1: Text of law.


North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force Briefing Paper Prepared in Support of Senate Bill 1218

Recommendation

Children between the ages of four and eight and less than 80 pounds in weight who are occupants of passenger vehicles should be properly secured in belt-positioning booster seats.

Background and Rationale

* Under current North Carolina law, a child less than five years of age and less than 40 pounds in weight must be properly secured in a “weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system”, commonly called a child restraint or car safety seat. At age five or 40 pounds (whichever comes first), children may be secured with properly fitted seat belts.

* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children who are too big for car safety seats but are less than age 8 should be restrained by use of a belt positioning booster seat to make the adult lap and shoulder belts fit correctly on the child.

* In the period 2000-2002 alone, the State Center for Health Statistics confirms that 43 children ages 5 to 8 who were occupants of passenger vehicles were killed in motor vehicle crashes, and data from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center indicate that approximately 200 additional children were seriously injured. Based on police collision reports, only 7% of these children were reported to be in booster seats; 55% were restrained only by lap and/or shoulder belts; 38% were unrestrained.

* Research by Partners for Child Passenger Safety confirms that the use of a booster seat with a seat belt, instead of a seat belt alone, reduces a child’s risk of death or serious injury by 59%. The most common serious injury is brain damage. The brain is the organ least likely to recover from injury.

* Responding to this information, 22 states and the District of Columbia have already enacted legislation to require the use of booster seats. This includes our neighboring states: Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina.

* The use of belt positioning booster seats is recommended nationally by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, the National Safety Council, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National SAFE KIDS Campaign, and others.

Special Notes:

* Backless booster seats are available for as low as $15; high-back models for as low as $25. There are already a number of local programs that make booster seats and child safety seats available at low cost. These programs also help to make sure all family members are as safe as possible.

* Penalties remain the same as current law. A violation includes a $25 fine and two driver’s license points. A violation is waived if a booster seat is acquired before trial.

 
 
Child restraint and booster seat law changes coming in January

Related info:
UNC Highway Safety Research Center

Governor's Highway Safety Program
 
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