Thursday, March 12, 2015

Senate panel aims to heighten safety with booster seat bill

FRANKFORT – The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously approved a booster seat bill today.

House Bill 315, as amended by the committee, requires booster seats to be used by children who are less than eight and are between 40 and 57 inches in height. HB 315 also clarifies that a child of any age who is over 57 inches in height shall not be required to be in a booster seat.

Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, who sponsored the bill, said it just adds an additional year and seven inches to the current state law.

“The reasons we need to do this is because all the interested groups – like engineers, medical professionals and car manufacturers – tell us that our current height limit is just wrong,” Riggs said. “It needs to be fixed.”

He said the seat belt does not correctly fit across the shoulder and lap of a child who is less than 57 inches. Riggs said the seat belt goes across the neck and abdomen of children who are shorter than that.

“Right now our law is telling our parents to do this incorrectly,” he said. “We have to fix the law.”

Riggs said all of the states neighboring Kentucky have adopted the new height limit.

Bill Bell, director of the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, brought his young son, Ryder, to demonstrate to committee members how booster seats do not properly protect children under 57 inches.

Lexington police officer Brandon Muravchick also testified in support of HB 315. He was 8 when he was riding in a vehicle that wrecked in Frankfort. Muravchick said the seat belt he was wearing likely saved his life but caused internal injuries because he was under 57 inches in height.

“I just had my tenth surgery in 2012,” he said, “which hospitalized me when I was in the police academy in Lexington. I’m still having issues from this wreck 25 year later. It’s very important the seat belt fits properly. The booster seat does that.”

HB 315 has already been approved by the state House and received its first reading in the Senate.