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Booster seats

The nine-month grace period for complying with the new booster seat law is officially over.

While the law took effect in September, a nine-month grace period has given families time to prepare. Authorities have been issuing warnings, but now citations come with fines starting at $25 for first-time offenders and increasing to $250 for subsequent infractions. Fees collected from violations will be used to provide booster seats to low-income families, [bill author State Sen. Judith] Zaffirini said.

Previously, Texas was among only six states without a booster seat law. The state only required safety seats for children younger than 5 and less than 3 feet tall.

“There was a big gap in the previous law because there were a lot of kids who were too tall to require the booster seat … and many kids weren’t in any kind of seat belt,” said Dr. David Wesson, a pediatric surgeon who directs the trauma program at Texas Children’s Hospital. “This law is designed to fill that gap and make sure kids are in a restraint that’s appropriate for their size.”

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Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death of children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Belt-positioning booster seats reduce the risk of injury for children ages 4 to 7 by 59 percent compared with youngsters restrained by only seat belts, according to CDC-cited research.

In the Houston area, most admitted trauma patients ages 4 to 7 involved in vehicle crashes were either unrestrained or inadequately restrained, according to 2007 hospital data. Only 12.5 percent of those children were secured by either a car seat or booster seat.

Olivia is still in the same booster seat she’s been in since she graduated from a car seat. I figure it’s just a matter of time before she asks for one of the backless seats, so that it’s not obvious from the outside that she’s in a booster seat at all. Audrey will be moving from the car seat to the booster soon, as she’s almost big enough. That will be great news for her, because it will mean she can sit in the way-back of the minivan along with Olivia when we need it for extra passengers. The car seat is way too much of a pain in the butt to relocate, but booster seats can be picked up and moved easily.

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