Buckle up your Keiki

According to the Keiki Injury Prevention Coalition, each year more than 700 children between the ages of four through seven are involved in major car crashes in Hawaii.

Statistics show that children are at least 50 percent more at risk for injury if they are improperly restrained in a safety belt. Children who are four to eight years old are not big enough to properly fit an adult seat belt. Improper fit of a safety belt can often result in serious injuries to the neck, spine, abdominal organs and lower extremities.

A booster seat or "child belt-positioning" seat positions and lifts the child to properly position them in the safety harness for proper fit, making sure the lap belt fits low and snug on the hips and the shoulder belt does not cross over a child's face or neck.

Hawaii's Booster Seat Law

A new Hawaii "Child Passenger Restraint" or booster seat law requires all children between the ages of four through seven to ride in a booster seat when traveling in a vehicle. Children taller than 4 feet 9 inches or if the vehicle has a lap-only seat belt in the rear seat are exempt from the law.

Previously, the law required children between the ages of 4 and 15 to be secured by safety belts when riding in the front seat and 4 and 17 must use safety belts in rear seat positions.

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for compliance of the law and anyone caught violating this law will be required to attend a 4-hour class and may be assessed a fine of between $100 - $500 depending upon the number of offenses.

When purchasing a booster seat, it is important to consider the child's temperament and maturity level. A child must be capable of sitting up without slouching or leaning over, keeping the belt in place and staying buckled. If your child is unable to do so, a higher weight restraint should be considered. It is also recommended that parents try to have their child sit in the booster seat (if possible, at least five to 10 minutes) before purchasing it to make sure the child is comfortable.

The cost of a good quality high back booster seat will range from $40 to $80. A Hawaii State tax credit of $25 per year applies to the purchase of a booster or child safety seat. For more information on the booster seat law visit www.KIPChawaii.org or call the Keiki Injury Prevention Coalition at 537-9200.

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