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Friday, August 10, 2012

Six things you need to know about Arizona’s booster seat law

Do you have questions about Arizona's new booster seat provision? Linda Gorman of AAA Arizona shares some answers in today's guest blog post...

By Linda Gorman
AAA of Arizona

Last Thursday, Arizona’s new booster seat provision was enacted, requiring children younger than 8 years old or less than 4 feet 9 inches tall to sit in a proper child safety seat, such as a booster seat, when riding in a vehicle. However, in the last few days, we’ve received several inquiries from residents and visitors who still have questions about this updated requirement. In an attempt to equip parents with the information they need to know, below are explanations to some of the most common questions we’ve received.

Why the new law? Didn’t Arizona already have this law on the books? 
The booster seat provision revised the existing child passenger safety law that allowed children to transition from a child safety seat to an adult seat belt alone at the age of 5 years old. However, because safety belts alone aren’t enough to protect children this small, parents were unknowingly jeopardizing the safety of their children by following this guideline. The booster seat provision closes this loophole in the law, thereby protecting children until they are large enough for the safety belt to properly protect them in the event of a crash.

I’m confused regarding when or if I need a booster seat for my child. What if my 7-year-old is already 4 feet 9 inches? Does he still need to ride in a booster seat?
The revised law requires children between ages 5 and 7 to ride in a booster seat unless they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. Once a child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller, they are no longer required to ride in a booster seat, regardless of age. The bottom line is that in order for a child to graduate to an adult safety belt, they have to meet either the age (8) or height (4 feet 9 inches tall) requirement. If your child meets the age, but not the height requirement (i.e. an 8-year-old who is less than 4 feet 9 inches tall). she would not be required by law to ride in a booster seat, because she meets the age requirement under the law. However, until she reaches at least 4 feet 9 inches, AAA recommends that she ride in a booster for her safety. 

Does a child’s weight have any bearing on the new provision?
Although many states do include weight as part of this provision, Arizona follows the height provision, as this is a better indicator for when a safety belt will properly fit a child. While weight varies among child passengers, the height at which a safety belt properly restrains and protects a child does not. Therefore, in Arizona, a child’s weight does not have any bearing on the new provision.

My 6-year-old hasn’t had to ride in a safety seat in more than a year. Am I supposed to place her in a booster seat?
Yes, for her safety and to adhere to the law, she needs to be placed in a booster seat if she falls below the revised requirements. For children who are new to boosters, or are having to readjust to riding in one, AAA recommends that parents and caregivers explain what a booster seat is and how it works to keep them safe. Parents may find that despite an initial protest, many children like riding in a booster seat, as it enables them to see out the car window.

My vehicle has a built-in booster seat. Does that meet the new requirement?
Integrated car seats meet the new provision so long as they fit the child properly. Because these seats can vary from vehicle to vehicle, check your owner’s manual for seat specifications.

How do I know I am using my car seat or booster seat correctly?
Unlike other car seats, boosters do not require installation. To ensure you are using any child passenger safety seat correctly, consult a certified child passenger safety technician to conduct a car seat check. AAA’s certified technician can be reached by calling 602-241-2945.

Linda Gorman is the communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona.
Connect with AAA at aaa.com, viaTwitter or on Facebook.
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