Tuesday, February 09, 2010

HB 113: Child Restraint Device Amendments

I sent this letter to both my state senator and my state congressman. I'll be sure to update the blog with any information they send me.


Dear Representative Morley and Senator Madsen,

I have noticed with interest HB113, “Child Restraint Device Amendments”. I believe that the current child restraint device laws are too restrictive, and I am pleased the legislature is considering amending them.

In the book “SuperFreakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the authors discuss a study indicating that perfectly installed and fitted car seats for 3- and 6-year-olds are no more effective in a crash in protecting children than the poorly fitting built-in seat belt. (A brief summary of their findings can be found here and here at the Freakonomics Blog at the New York Times website.) While I am not claiming that this is a definitive study on the subject, I am interested in learning what studies and reports the Utah State Legislature is using while considering amending the law. I am especially interested in any recent studies about older children (ages 5-8) and booster seats being considered during the deliberative process.

As much as I applaud the direction of the amending (loosening the requirements on older children), I have serious concerns about the language of the amendment. As written, I do not see how this law could be enforced. How would a police officer know if I was driving directly to or from my home? That I was driving to the school or an authorized activity? That I don’t have a booster seat in the trunk in case I have to drive 5 miles away from the house?

As a parent of four children under the age of seven (with a fifth child on the way), I am directly affected by these laws, and will be for a good many years to come. I would very much appreciate hearing from you on your opinion as to these amendments, on how the law would be enforced, and what scientific studies are being used to inform the Legislature on this subject.

Thank you for your service and your help in this request.