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Politics

Stricter Requirements on Children Riding in Cars Come Before House Panel

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/stricterre_1390.mp3

Today, safety advocates from around the state urged the House Transportation committee to approve legislation that would require older children to sit in booster seats when riding in a car or truck. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

A group of safety advocates testified before the House Transportation Committee, armed with graphic descriptions and pictures showing what can happen when children between the ages of 4 and 8 use adult seat belts.

They argue that children outgrow child safety seats and immediately begin using lap and shoulder belts that are designed for adults...They want lawmakers to require children who no longer fit in child safety seats to use booster seats.

Karen Underwood is a pediatric intensive care physician at St Louis Children's Hospital.

Underwood and others say a stricter standard for protecting children riding in cars and trucks is long overdue.

She's supporting legislation that would require children who meet certain age, weight and height specifications to sit in a child safety seat or a booster seat.

Right now, Missouri law requiring children to ride in safety seats only applies to children under the age of 4.

Pam Holt is Trauma Prevention Education Coordinator for St. John's Health System in Springfield.

She says protecting children through age 8 is a critical issue in the Springfield area.

In the past, there have been some concerns about requiring parents to spend money on an additional device for their children.

But Phyllis Larimore with Children's Mercy Hospital says the child's safety outweighs the right of the parents to make that decision.

At a recent public hearing on the bill to increase the child restraint requirements, no one spoke against the proposal.

A lobbyist for Enterprise Rental Car did raise some concerns about a provision requiring rental car companies to provide child safety seats and booster seats.

But safety advocates say this provision is not what held the bill back in previous years.

Pam Holt with St. John's Trauma Prevention Program says the child restraint bill got entangled with controversial issues.

The bill has the support of several law enforcement agencies, the Missouri Safety Council and the Missouri Hospital Association.

It must gain committee approval before it can come before the full House for debate.