By State Senator Roy Dyson (D-29th)
On June 30, the new child car seat law became effective. The measure was approved overwhelmingly by the 2008 General Assembly session.
The new laws requires safety seats for children up to 8 years of age or have reached a height of 4 feet 9 inches or a weight of 68 pounds. Violators of the law will be fined $25.
For years, pediatricians and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have recommended booster seats for 7 and 8 year old children. Passage of the new law brings Maryland in line with all its neighbor states and all the Mid-Atlantic States that have higher weight and height requirements for child safety seats.
The NHTSA guidelines for child passenger safety recommend use of the:
-- Rear-facing seat for children younger than age 1 and who weigh at least 10 pounds.
-- Forward-facing seat for children up to the age of 4 and who weigh 40 pounds.
-- Booster seats for children under age 8 and 4 feet 9 inches tall.
-- Seat belts should be used when children reach the age of 8 or the height of 4 feet 9 inches
For the past several years, Maryland law has required safety seats for children younger than age 4. Since 2003, the State has mandated safety seats for children less than 6 years old.
Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children in the U. S. Studies show that a properly used safety seat or booster seat reduces the chances of a child being seriously injured or killed in a car crash by more than half. Research by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia shows that the use of a safety seat, strapped into a vehicle reduces by 59% the risk of injury for children.
Statistical evidence shows that since 2003, the number of children injured in car crashes has decreased. According to the State Highway Administration, in 2006 there were 827 children injured and four killed in automobile crashes. That number represents a drop from 1,069 injuries and six child deaths in 2002.
With the adoption of the new child safety car seat requirements, Maryland becomes one of 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, with more stringent child car seat laws.
Most parents have commented favorably regarding passage of the bill. Nevertheless, you can't please everyone. A few did object to the further intrusion of government into our personal lives and our personal judgment. I, too, object to the intrusion of government into every aspect of our lives. Nevertheless, I strongly supported the car seat legislation because I would rather err on the side of child safety.