ATLANTA (Monday, May 9, 2011) – Governor Nathan Deal teamed up today with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Safe Kids Georgia by signing into law Senate Bill 88. This legislation, introduced as SB 88 in the Senate by Senator Jeff Mullis and as HB 279 in the House by Representative Alan Powell, will require children to be properly restrained in a child passenger safety restraint device until they are 8 years of age.
“It is important that we protect the lives of our children by ensuring every young Georgian is properly secured while riding in a motor vehicle,“ said Governor Deal. “I am grateful for the work that both chambers did to make this legislation a reality.”
In 2008, a total of 14,154 children ages 6-8 years in Georgia were involved in motor vehicle crashes. Of those children, 1,755 were injured and 10 were killed. Only 12% of these children were reported to be using a supplemental restraint, such as a child safety seat or a booster seat, in addition to the adult seat belt. In the three-year period from 2005 to 2007, hospitalization charges for 248 children who were hospitalized due to motor vehicle traffic related injuries were about $7 million. An additional $5 million in charges was for the 5,111 emergency room visits for the same period.
”Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta came to me and said during the last four years 95 percent of the patients they saw for injuries resulting from a motor vehicle crash between the ages of 6 and 8 were improperly restrained,” said Georgia’s State Senator Jeff Mullis. “I believe it is our responsibility to protect our children and when there is an obvious problem, we need to fix it. I was honored they asked me to work on this issue on behalf of children all across Georgia.”
Director Harris Blackwood of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said, “This bill will bring Georgia in line with the age recommendations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Certain exemptions, which were already part of state law, still apply.”
A child is exempted from the law if one of the following is true:
- He is at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
- He has a written statement from a physician for a medical condition.
- He weighs 40 pounds or more, AND the available lap and shoulder belts are being used to properly restrain other children.
- He weighs 40 pounds or more, AND the vehicle is not equipped with both lap and shoulder belts.
These exemptions were part of existing law and are not new in SB 88.
Representative Alan Powell also helped ensure passage of this legislation by carrying an identical bill, HB 279, and ultimately SB 88 in the House. “Protecting children is one of the most important jobs we legislators are elected to do. Seat belts in today’s vehicles are made for adult bodies. Keeping 6 and 7 year olds from transitioning out of booster seats too soon means children’s lives will be saved and severe internal injuries will be prevented during motor vehicle crashes,” said Powell. “Booster seats, are positioning devices that help elevate a child to the proper height. I’ve seen data that says booster seats used with a seat belt will lower injury risk by 59% compared with belts alone.”
The new law is set to become effective on July 1, 2011.
After signing SB 88, Governor Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal visited patients and handed out stuffed animals that were collected at the Sixth Annual Governor’s Easter Egg Hunt on April 9, 2011.
“It was a joy to see the excitement in the children’s faces,” said First Lady Deal. “The community was so gracious in the amount of stuffed animals that were donated that day. I am grateful we were able to be here to meet some of these brave patients. Their courage and optimism is truly inspiring.”
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Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a not-for-profit organization, is committed to enhancing the lives of children through excellence in patient care, research and education. Managing more than half a million patient visits annually at three hospitals and 16 neighborhood locations, Children’s is one of the largest clinical care providers for children in the country. Children’s offers access to more than 30 pediatric specialties and is ranked among the top children’s hospitals by Parents magazine and U.S.News & World Report. With generous philanthropic and volunteer support, Children’s has made an impact in the lives of children in Georgia, the United States and throughout the world. To find out more on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta visit www.choa.org .