Strap them in

 

 
 
Booster seat bill needed to keep kids safer in cars
 
BY SHEREE SHATSKY • COMMUNITY COLUMNIST • March 2, 2010
 
Most kids of the ’60s traveled unrestrained in automobiles.
 
We peered over the driver’s shoulder, crawled about the car, hung our heads, hands and feet out the window and sat cushioned between our parents in the front seat.
 
Never once did we think about Sir Isaac Newton.
 
Until the day my mother stopped short in traffic and, as a result, propelled my younger brother from the back seat, over the front and into the passenger side footwell.
 
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
 
The same thinking holds true regarding Florida seat-belt laws. Gathering her unscathed son from beneath the dashboard, I’m certain my mother’s immediate thoughts didn’t revolve around the constitutionality of safety-restraint devices.
 
But back in 1986, opponents protesting the proposed Florida Safety Belt law contended that buckling up should remain optional.
 
Although public safety won out over personal autonomy, there are those who feel now as then that mandatory seat-belt wear is a governmental attempt to curtail personal freedom.
 
Former Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a booster seat bill in 2002, stating such a law would prove unfair to drivers from border states with no such child-restraint regulation.
 
“Back then, I guess we couldn’t be a leader in child safety — God forbid,” said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, who filed a booster-seat bill last fall for the fourth straight year. “Since the other states had inadequate laws, we had to have one, too. Now we don’t have that excuse.”
 
Florida joins Arizona and South Dakota as one of only three states that do not require boosters seats for children over age 4.
 
Senate Bill 316 requires children ages 4 through 7 to sit in a booster seat while riding in a car. Current Florida law allows for children older than age 4 to be restrained only by a seat belt designed to protect an adult.
 
Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. Altman explains how such force is unsafely restricted when a child wears an adult seat belt:
 
Most kids of the ’60s traveled unrestrained in automobiles.
 
We peered over the driver’s shoulder, crawled about the car, hung our heads, hands and feet out the window and sat cushioned between our parents in the front seat.
 
Never once did we think about Sir Isaac Newton.
 
Until the day my mother stopped short in traffic and, as a result, propelled my younger brother from the back seat, over the front and into the passenger side footwell.
 
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
 
The same thinking holds true regarding Florida seat-belt laws. Gathering her unscathed son from beneath the dashboard, I’m certain my mother’s immediate thoughts didn’t revolve around the constitutionality of safety-restraint devices.
 
But back in 1986, opponents protesting the proposed Florida Safety Belt law contended that buckling up should remain optional.
 
Although public safety won out over personal autonomy, there are those who feel now as then that mandatory seat-belt wear is a governmental attempt to curtail personal freedom.
 
Former Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a booster seat bill in 2002, stating such a law would prove unfair to drivers from border states with no such child-restraint regulation.
 
“Back then, I guess we couldn’t be a leader in child safety — God forbid,” said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, who filed a booster-seat bill last fall for the fourth straight year. “Since the other states had inadequate laws, we had to have one, too. Now we don’t have that excuse.”
 
Florida joins Arizona and South Dakota as one of only three states that do not require boosters seats for children over age 4.
 
Senate Bill 316 requires children ages 4 through 7 to sit in a booster seat while riding in a car. Current Florida law allows for children older than age 4 to be restrained only by a seat belt designed to protect an adult.
 
Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. Altman explains how such force is unsafely restricted when a child wears an adult seat belt:
 
“We know because of the physics, when that belt is strapped across that child’s neck, when that belt is strapped across that child’s abdomen, a lot of these fatalities and hospitalizations are caused by the seat belts themselves because they suddenly become nooses,” he says.
 
An object with a certain velocity maintains that velocity unless a force acts on it to cause an acceleration.
 
Applied to human nature, young children will continue to travel by car unsafely restrained until drivers are provided an incentive to accelerate quickly to the nearest department store to purchase a booster seat.
 
Should Senate Bill 316 become law, the penalty for noncompliance is a moving violation, carrying a fine of $60 and three points on one’s driver license.
 

Based on his three Laws of Motion, if Isaac Newton were alive today, I’d maintain he would exercise his personal autonomy to ensure the personal safety of Florida children through support of Senate Bill 316.

Shatsky works for Brevard Public Schools. She lives in Melbourne.

 

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