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Booster Seat Restraint Requirement in Expected Transportation Bill

November 30, 2005
By: Katie Peterson
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri children will be required to wear booster seat restraints if a major transportation safety bill expected for the upcoming legislative session passes according to Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-Ellisville.

A booster seat raises a child so the vehicle's seat belt fits properly. Chairman of the Missouri Transportation Committee, Rep. Neal St. Onge said, "This will make it a lot safer for our young folks driving across Missouri."

Currently, Missouri law requires all children under the age of 16 to be in some type of restraint and children from birth to four years old to specifically be in a child car seat restraint.

However, Child Passenger Safety Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Transportation Pam Hoelscher said that children within the booster seat age of four to eight are ill-suited for lap belt restraints because they can cause severe trauma during an accident. "A lot of times, the belt will wad and cause severe internal injuries," she said.

Each booster seat manufacturer has specific height and weight requirements, but typically children between the ages of four to eight under 4 feet 9 inches tall are able to wear booster seat restraints, according Hoelscher.

In 2004, there were nine traffic fatalities and 1,645 injuries in Missouri of children between the booster seat age of four to eight. Only one out of the nine fatalities were using a child restraint, Hoelscher reported.

"It is beneficial and lifesaving to require booster seats," Hoelscher said. According to Hoelscher, 33 other states have booster seat requirements.

In addition, St. Onge said the bill will include a substantial increase in fines and more points of infractions against a Missouri driver for speeding in work zones. "We are getting too many workers and motorists injured in work zones. There seems to be a disregard for posted speed limits and cautions," he said.

Missouri Transportation Department Technical Support Engineer Scott Stotlemeyer said 28 people were killed in work zones in 2004. Stotlemeyer said most of the accidents were caused my careless driving.

St. Onge said the harsher penalties are needed because of the increase in work zones across the state after Amendment 3, an extensive roadway improvement plan passed last year.

The safety bill also includes making it illegal for Missouri drivers to pass over the double yellow line on roadways. St. Onge said he was surprised that this was not already a law.

Lt. Tim Hull spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol said, "The double yellow line up to this point was used to indicate bad areas to be driving on the left hand side of the road because there can be vehicles coming that you can't see." The anticipated legislation will make the safety theory behind the double yellow lines enforceable, Hull said.

St. Onge reported the bill also requires all trucks to remain entirely out of the left lane on three lane highways. "Keeping some distance between cars and trucks just keeps everything safer," Onge said.

Hull said the effectiveness of such a law is tough to determine due to the differences in traffic levels throughout the day making it difficult for trucks to remain in one lane.

"In some cases it might make the highway safer and in others it might not make any difference at all," Hull said.

St. Onge said all these measures will be included in one major safety bill, and parts of it will be officially introduced within the next couple weeks. The booster seat requirement could be introduced as early as Thursday according to St. Onge.

Pre-filing of bills for the 2006 Missouri legislation session begins Dec. 1.