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Safety office reminds motorists of California booster seat law change

(U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter/Released)

(U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A new state law, effective Jan. 1, was enacted to protect California's young passengers of automobiles.

The new law proclaims that children under the age of 8, or shorter than 4 feet 9 inches, must be properly buckled into a car seat, or booster seat, in the back seat of an automobile.

"It is suggested that children stay rearward facing until they are at least 2 years old," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Ferguson, from the 30th Space Wing Safety Office. "Even breaking hard in a vehicle traveling at a low speed is enough to cause a child's spine to stretch, but by keeping children (less than 2 years of age) facing rearward in the back of an automobile, can greatly reduce the chance of injury."

Children age 8 or older may use the vehicle's seatbelt if it fits properly with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest. However, if children are not tall enough for proper belt fit, they must ride in a booster or car seat.

Additionally, everyone in the car must be properly buckled up. For each child under 16 years of age who is not properly secured, parents (if in the car) or drivers can be fined more than $475 and get a point on their driving records.

"The biggest thing to keep in mind, if you are stopped for this issue, the officer only needs to determine that the restraint did not have a proper fit, regardless of age," said Patrick Hansen, a 30th SW ground safety specialist.

The Vandenberg Safety Office conducts random seatbelt checks around base and one of the most common violations found are children improperly fastened in a child safety seat, said Ferguson.

"Please take the time to read and follow all manufacture instruction for your child's car seat to ensure the safety of your child," Ferguson said. "Thousands of children are injured or killed every year by safety seats that are improperly fastened by parents or caretakers. Remember, most collisions occur within a mile of the home - so buckle your child in a safety seat for every trip, no matter how short."

Anyone who is military affiliated and has questions concerning the installation of their child's car seat may call the Vandenberg Safety Office at 606-SAFE (7233) for more information.

According to SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A (http://carseat.org/), the following are additional related laws and information to protect children in vehicles:

Laws:

· Children left in vehicle (V.C. 15620): A child 6 years old or less may not be left alone in a vehicle if the health or safety of the child is at risk, the engine is running, or the keys are in the ignition. The child must be supervised by someone at least age 12. The cost of a ticket could be more than $475.

· Smoking in a vehicle [Health and Safety Code 118948(a)] is prohibited if a child under 18 is present. The cost of a ticket could be more than $475.

Related Information:

- Older babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing convertible seat until they are at least two years old. Check manufacturer's instructions for the maximum weight (30 - 45 pounds).

- Children should ride in a safety seat with a harness as long as possible (40 - 90 pounds, depending on the model).

- Auto insurers are required to replace safety seats that were in use or damaged during a crash.