Pass booster-seat bill to save children

It's long been accepted that society has an obligation to take care of children.

There are laws to protect them from drugs, alcohol and sexual predators. There are laws to assure they go to school, get vaccinations and don't drive on public streets until they've shown they can do so responsibly.

In Kentucky, laws require parents to buckle their very young children into car seats, and into booster seats until they are 7 years old or 50 inches high.

All of which makes you wonder why the General Assembly would hesitate to follow national guidelines and neighboring states as well as the advice of local physicians and child advocates, and extend the booster seat requirement to kids 8 years old or 57 inches tall.

Seat belts with shoulder harnesses are designed to restrain adults in car accidents. When belts are in the wrong place on smaller people they can cause serious injuries to the spine, neck, abdomen and internal organs.

Booster seats, as their name suggests, boost a child to the level where the harness fits properly.

That's the reason for House Bill 199 to extend the booster seat requirement.

There's not much doubt that the Democratic majority House of Representatives will pass HB 199. Gov. Steve Beshear supports the measure, which was introduced by Reps. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, and Richard Henderson, D-Mount Sterling.

The question is whether the Republican Senate, which dawdled for seven years before enacting the current requirement, will pass the law this session.

A spokesman for Senate President Robert Stivers skated around the question posed by reporter Linda Blackford, saying Stivers hadn't read the bill yet but Senate leaders, "obviously" want to protect Kentucky children.

Well, it is obvious that extending the booster requirement protects children. All of the states surrounding Kentucky have the stronger requirement and had a lower death rate in 2010 for kids 4 to 14 who were involved in fatal car wrecks.

Multiple studies have also shown that injuries and death are significantly reduced when kids are belted in properly, which is why the National Transportation Safety Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others support the additional protection.

Stivers should read the bill, put it on the calendar and try to get it through the Senate this session so Kentucky kids have the same protection as those in surrounding states.