Booster Seat Education May Help Save Kids' Lives

ByABC News
February 14, 2006, 4:11 PM

Feb. 14, 2006 — -- When an SUV sideswiped Jennifer Harty's minivan on a rural highway in southern Georgia three years ago, she was surprised by the way emergency room doctors reacted when she brought in her 5-year-old daughter for treatment.

"When we brought Madison to the emergency room, the doctors told us how lucky we were that she had been sitting in a booster seat," said Harty. "I couldn't understand. Weren't booster seats part of the law?"

Harty's vehicle skidded from the highway into a nearby ravine. Although the left side of the van was crushed, Madison -- who was secured in a booster seat -- suffered only cuts and a broken arm.

"Obviously, the injuries could have been more severe, according to the doctors," said Harty. "Most parents don't even know about booster seat requirements."

According to a study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 34 states and the District of Columbia have booster seat laws, but only 16 include programs for public education on the legislation.

"While enforcement is important, it's equally important to include public education into the language of these laws," said Dr. William King, professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama.

The study also found that parents and caregivers of children are 43 percent more likely to put children in car booster seats once they learn how important booster seats are to child safety and how easy they are to use.

Further, the study found that while offering education and incentives to parents increases the use of booster seats as much as 32 percent, enforcement alone has no substantial impact whatsoever.

With booster seat usage averaging only 37 percent nationwide, child-safety advocates clamor for tougher legislation and more public education.

According to Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, "car crashes are the leading cause of death for children, and booster seats save lives."