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New Jersey booster seat law may not protect kids in car accidents

New Jersey law dictates that children aged 7 years or younger and weighing less than 80 pounds must be in appropriate child restraints and in rear seat while riding in a motor vehicle. Although the law was created to keep small children safe from injuries in car accidents, its effectiveness is often undermined by the insufficiency of booster seats, according to a recent release from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).

Booster seats are child restraints that are commonly used on children between the ages of 4 and 8 when they outgrow traditional car seats. If they do not fit with the vehicle's seat belts, the child may be improperly restrained, causing him or her to hit parts of the vehicle during a car accident. In addition, the seat belt may also cause damage to internal organs with a strong impact.

For the third year in a row, the IIHS rated booster seats based on how well they fit the lap and shoulder belts in a wide range of motor vehicles. Of the 83 seats tested, only 36 were rated "best bets" or "good bets." The other 41 were rated "check fit" because they do not consistently fit with seat belts. This makes it necessary for parents to check the fit with the belt before driving with their child in the seat, and even then, the seat may not effectively protect the child in a collision.

Although booster seats have improved since the IIHS began issuing ratings, the agency is urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take on the task of evaluating booster seats. This is because the IIHS cannot issue requirements in terms of design or safety, which means that many children still go unprotected in Bergen County and throughout the state and country.

If one of your children has been injured in a car accident as a result of an improper child restraint, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: USA Today, "Car-safety group: Half of child booster seats pose risks," Jayne O'Donnell, Oct. 13, 2011

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