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Childseat law changes

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

A new California law will provide a boost to child safety in automobiles starting Jan. 1, 2002.

The current law mandates children be in a safety seat until they reach 4 years old and 40 pounds. The new law will increase the age to 6 years old and the weight to 60 pounds.

“Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for kids,” said AAA safety expert Melanie Gilmour. “The goal of the new law is to minimize those numbers.”



Allyson Tabor, a public health nurse at the El Dorado County Public Health Department, said the existing law excludes older, but lighter, children as well as younger, but heavier children. The new law will protect those body types, she said.

“There are a lot of children who are small,” Allyson Tabor, a public health nurse at the El Dorado County Public Health Department, said. “The adult size seat belts don’t fit them very well so they need to be in booster seats or speciality seats.”



Kathy Gregorich, who works in the California Children Services in El Dorado County, remembered an incident in 1979 when a 9-month-old was involved in a head-on car crash.

He is now 22 years old and needs 24-hour care. He is constantly attached to tubes feeding him air and food. He cannot speak.

Even though child safety seats were not required in 1979, Gregorich believes a the new law’s safety seat requirements would have helped the victim.

“He might have had internal injuries from the belt but his head would be in one piece,” she said. “He would have a brain. He wouldn’t have a smashed melon.”

Gregorich also recalled a 7-year-old girl who went through occupational therapy for a car crash that happened three years ago.

The girl was in the front seat of a car during the accident, Gregorich said. The air bag imploded, enveloped the girl and knocked her out. The nerve center of her shoulder, which controls her wrist and hands, was damaged.

Ella Gibbons, a child passenger safety technician at the El Dorado County Health Department, appreciates the new law.

“It will save a lot of lives,” she said. “Children 4 years old were not tall enough to fit into a lap shoulder belt and they would slide under it.”

Washington also will adopt the new child seat safety laws in July 2002, Gibbons said.


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