Fitzgerald Says Many States Do Not Adequately Protect Child Passengers; Considers Federal Options for Encouraging Booster Seat Use

Apr 24, 2001, 01:00 ET from Office of Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald

    WASHINGTON, April 24 /PRNewswire Interactive News Release/ -- Congress may
 need to step in and press states to strengthen their child passenger safety
 laws to require that older children be safely secured in booster seats, U.S.
 Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald (R-Illinois) said today.  The senator said that
 many states aren't doing enough to protect older kids in car crashes, the
 leading cause of death among children under age 14.
     "I'm concerned that many older children aren't adequately protected when
 they ride in the car, and lax state laws may be to blame," said Fitzgerald,
 who heads the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Affairs.  "We're here
 today to listen to the experts and try to determine if there is anything the
 federal government can or should be doing to encourage greater booster seat
 use."
     The subcommittee held a hearing this morning to examine gaps in state laws
 that leave children roughly between the ages of four and eight -- kids who are
 too big for car seats but still to small to be safely secured by adult
 seatbelts -- unprotected.  Because many states don't require these "forgotten
 children" to ride in booster seats designed to make adult seatbelts fit
 properly, they may be at greater risk of injury than their younger and older
 siblings, Fitzgerald said.
     A recent evaluation of state child passenger safety laws by the National
 SAFE KIDS Campaign, a child safety advocacy group, gave 24 states a failing
 grade on protecting children riding in vehicles.  As many as 30 percent of all
 children in the United States continue to ride completely unrestrained and, of
 those who are buckled up, four out of five -- or 80 percent -- are improperly
 secured, the study found.  Heather Paul, the Executive Director of the
 National SAFE KIDS Campaign, testified at this morning's hearing.
     "Car crashes are the number one cause of death in this country among
 children ages 14 and under," said Fitzgerald.  About 1,800 children die and
 more than 274,000 are injured in automobile crashes every year, according to
 government data.  "It's alarming to me that so many states are failing to
 provide even the most basic passenger protections for our children.  We, as
 parents, should be concerned," the senator added.
     Specifically, Fitzgerald called on states that fared poorly in the
 national study to improve their safety laws by requiring older kids to ride in
 booster seats.  Designed specifically to help standard adult seatbelts fit
 children better, booster seats aid child passenger safety and help reduce the
 risk of what experts call "lap belt syndrome" -- instances in which improperly
 -- fitting seatbelts themselves actually cause serious injury to children in
 car crashes instead of protecting them.  In some crashes, for example, the
 shoulder belt that cuts across a child's neck -- instead of her torso -- and
 the lab belt that rides high on her abdomen cause severe internal injuries to
 her liver, spleen, intestines, and spinal cord, Fitzgerald said.
     Although all 50 states have mandatory child safety seat laws for younger
 children, there is no similar uniform requirement for booster seat use.  If
 states do not act quickly to address the problem, Fitzgerald suggested that
 Congress should consider legislation to persuade them to tighten their
 protections.  Among the possibilities, Congress could explore hinging federal
 transportation funds and grants on the states' willingness to require booster
 seats for older children.
     "The alarmingly low rate of booster seat use is a major problem in this
 country and a serious public health threat.  We should consider all options
 available to help encourage safer car rides for our children," the senator
 said.
     Improving child passenger safety has been a focus for Fitzgerald since
 becoming a member of the Senate.  Last year, he authored legislation to
 modernize the government's outdated testing methods for child safety seats,
 expand efforts to protect children in various types of collisions, and close
 the "child safety gap" that leaves older children unprotected.  The new law,
 which passed as part of a broader road safety package, also calls for new
 federal regulations to ensure greater protection against head injuries in
 side-impact collisions, and instructs NHTSA, the federal agency responsible
 for testing child safety seats, to provide parents with accurate, easy-to-
 understand information they can use to decide which car seat or booster seat
 is best for their child.
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X26435892
 
 

SOURCE Office of Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald
    WASHINGTON, April 24 /PRNewswire Interactive News Release/ -- Congress may
 need to step in and press states to strengthen their child passenger safety
 laws to require that older children be safely secured in booster seats, U.S.
 Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald (R-Illinois) said today.  The senator said that
 many states aren't doing enough to protect older kids in car crashes, the
 leading cause of death among children under age 14.
     "I'm concerned that many older children aren't adequately protected when
 they ride in the car, and lax state laws may be to blame," said Fitzgerald,
 who heads the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Affairs.  "We're here
 today to listen to the experts and try to determine if there is anything the
 federal government can or should be doing to encourage greater booster seat
 use."
     The subcommittee held a hearing this morning to examine gaps in state laws
 that leave children roughly between the ages of four and eight -- kids who are
 too big for car seats but still to small to be safely secured by adult
 seatbelts -- unprotected.  Because many states don't require these "forgotten
 children" to ride in booster seats designed to make adult seatbelts fit
 properly, they may be at greater risk of injury than their younger and older
 siblings, Fitzgerald said.
     A recent evaluation of state child passenger safety laws by the National
 SAFE KIDS Campaign, a child safety advocacy group, gave 24 states a failing
 grade on protecting children riding in vehicles.  As many as 30 percent of all
 children in the United States continue to ride completely unrestrained and, of
 those who are buckled up, four out of five -- or 80 percent -- are improperly
 secured, the study found.  Heather Paul, the Executive Director of the
 National SAFE KIDS Campaign, testified at this morning's hearing.
     "Car crashes are the number one cause of death in this country among
 children ages 14 and under," said Fitzgerald.  About 1,800 children die and
 more than 274,000 are injured in automobile crashes every year, according to
 government data.  "It's alarming to me that so many states are failing to
 provide even the most basic passenger protections for our children.  We, as
 parents, should be concerned," the senator added.
     Specifically, Fitzgerald called on states that fared poorly in the
 national study to improve their safety laws by requiring older kids to ride in
 booster seats.  Designed specifically to help standard adult seatbelts fit
 children better, booster seats aid child passenger safety and help reduce the
 risk of what experts call "lap belt syndrome" -- instances in which improperly
 -- fitting seatbelts themselves actually cause serious injury to children in
 car crashes instead of protecting them.  In some crashes, for example, the
 shoulder belt that cuts across a child's neck -- instead of her torso -- and
 the lab belt that rides high on her abdomen cause severe internal injuries to
 her liver, spleen, intestines, and spinal cord, Fitzgerald said.
     Although all 50 states have mandatory child safety seat laws for younger
 children, there is no similar uniform requirement for booster seat use.  If
 states do not act quickly to address the problem, Fitzgerald suggested that
 Congress should consider legislation to persuade them to tighten their
 protections.  Among the possibilities, Congress could explore hinging federal
 transportation funds and grants on the states' willingness to require booster
 seats for older children.
     "The alarmingly low rate of booster seat use is a major problem in this
 country and a serious public health threat.  We should consider all options
 available to help encourage safer car rides for our children," the senator
 said.
     Improving child passenger safety has been a focus for Fitzgerald since
 becoming a member of the Senate.  Last year, he authored legislation to
 modernize the government's outdated testing methods for child safety seats,
 expand efforts to protect children in various types of collisions, and close
 the "child safety gap" that leaves older children unprotected.  The new law,
 which passed as part of a broader road safety package, also calls for new
 federal regulations to ensure greater protection against head injuries in
 side-impact collisions, and instructs NHTSA, the federal agency responsible
 for testing child safety seats, to provide parents with accurate, easy-to-
 understand information they can use to decide which car seat or booster seat
 is best for their child.
 
                     MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT -  Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X26435892
 
 SOURCE  Office of Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald