State bill would extend child safety seat requirements

by: Sarah Bleau Updated:

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The Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that would extend child car safety seat requirements. It heads to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk next.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics... it fits their best practice recommendations that they've had out for quite some time so now our law is catching up to best practice,” said Kristi Davis, Child Passenger Safety Instructor and Registered Nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women and Children.

Currently, Tennessee’s Child Restraint Law requires children less than one-year-old or less than 20 pounds be in a rear-facing safety seat less. The changes proposed in the bill would require children be in rear-facing seats for an additional year.

“It protects their head, their neck and their spinal cord, the whole back of the seat,” said Davis. “We don't care about where their feet are; their feet can kick the seat.”

The bill would also change the requirement for forward-facing safety seats from one to three-years-old to less than five-years-old.

It would also change the booster seat requirements from children between ages four and eight to between ages five and 12 or until the child meets the height requirement of 4’9” tall.

Susan Helms with Safe Kids Mid-South emailed FOX13 a statement saying, “These updates reflect the very best practice to help keep kids safe in motor vehicles-- We anticipate our Governor's signature-- Kudos, Tennessee!”

Helms added safety advocates, including Safe Kids which is led by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, have followed current research regarding child safety seats and car accidents and works to synch law with that research.

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety, police officers who observe violations of the Child Restraint Law can stop drivers and take enforcement action.

It adds the driver of the car is responsible to make sure children less than 16-years-old are properly restrained; if not, they can be charged and fined $50. If the child’s parent or guardian is in the car but not driving, they can still be fined for non-compliance.

Collierville and Germantown Police Departments told FOX13 they enforce this through traffic stops or when they find violators in traffic accidents.

To book an appointment with Safe Kids Mid-South to learn how to properly install a car seat, call 901-287-6730.

Local police departments and local hospitals also have trained child passenger safety technician available. To find who and where to go near you, visit this link on the Safe Car through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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