By Robert Kittle
Current state law requires children to use a car seat or booster seat until they're 5. This bill would raise that to 7 years old. It would also require children to stay in rear-facing car seats until they're two years old instead of one, or until they've outgrown the seat manufacturer's height or weight limit.
Pam Channell already makes her 7-year-old daughter Kady keep using a booster seat, even though it's not required by law. "She's not tall enough that the lap belt hits her in the right spot across her thighs, or the neck belt, so she really needs to be raised up," she says. She thinks the bill is a good idea to better protect all children.
Megan Branham is the policy and government liaison for Children's Trust of South Carolina and worked on the bill with Sen. Tom Alexander, R-Walhalla, who prefiled it in the state Senate. She says the bill would bring South Carolina's law in line with the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. "They've done the research, they've done the work to show that this is absolutely the best of the best, and so in order to keep kids safe this is what we should be doing," she says.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children and more than half who die in South Carolina are not in any kind of restraint, according to the preamble to the bill.
According to Heidi Aakjer, manager of Safe Kids South Carolina, 90 percent of all car seats in the state are installed incorrectly. To make sure yours is correct, you can go to a car seat inspection station for a free inspection. You can find one near you on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website here.
Besides using a booster seat longer, Aakjer says it's important that children not ride in the front seat until they're 13, as the bill would require. "An airbag comes out and it's really made for a man that weighs 180 pounds, so the impact of that airbag can do a lot of damage to a smaller child," she says.