Bill to expand requirements for child booster seats

By Marc Kovac

Children 4 to 18 now use seat belts when riding in vehicles.

COLUMBUS — The Ohio House has passed legislation that would require children age 4 to 8 or shorter than 4 feet 9 inches to use booster seats in motor vehicles.

House Bill 320, sponsored by Rep. Shannon Jones, a Republican from Springsboro, was approved Wednesday on a vote of 85-10. The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

State law now requires children younger than 4 or who weigh less than 40 pounds to be secured in a car seat or age-appropriate restraint when traveling in a motor vehicle, according to an analysis compiled by the state’s Legislative Service Commission. Those age 4-18 are required to use seat belts.

Under Jones’ bill, children younger than 8 or shorter than 4 feet 9 inches and who are not already required to be in car seats must use booster seats.

According to the Legislative Service Commission, “[A] child who is 7 years old and over 4 feet 9 inches in height would not specifically be required to be in a booster seat, but would continue to be required by current law to be in a child-restraint system or occupant restraining system.

A child who is 7 years old and less than 4 feet 9 inches in height specifically would be required to be in a booster seat.”

The legislation will protect children; Jones said more than 18,000 children were injured and 178 died in Ohio last year because they were not “properly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle,” Jones said.

“Sadly, many of these injuries could have been prevented had the children been in booster seats. ... I am talking about serious injuries with long-term, life-altering consequences, and indeed these injuries, many are preventable.”

The bill also could enable the state to access an estimated $1 million in federal funding for car and booster-seat education and to purchase seats for low-income residents, Jones said.

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