By most standards, Arizona child seat belt law is lagging. In all but three states, five-year-olds are required to ride in a car seat. Currently, under Arizona seat belt law, there are no regulations guiding seat belt use for children five-years-old and up. All children four-years-old and younger are required to have either a car, or booster, seat when riding in a motor vehicle.
Still, lawmakers in the state are working on filling in that gap; in mid January the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee passed a bill that would extend Arizona’s child seat belt laws.
Senate Bill 1010, as passed by the committee, would require a booster seat for children:
- between the ages of five and nine
- who are four feet nine inches tall or shorter
Seat belts are often a poor fit for younger, smaller children, as they sit too high on the child’s stomach area and cut high on the collar bone. In a car accident, this ill-fit can cause severe internal injuries and even spinal fractures. A booster seat serves to raise the child up, giving the seat belt a more proper fit and significantly reducing injuries.
The booster seat law would only apply in the case of motor vehicles that:
- are designed to hold 10 or fewer passengers
- were manufactured in 1972 or later
- are already required to be equipped with seat belts
So a vintage, 1960’s Mustang would not fall under the new law. Still, groups like the Arizona Automobile Association of America have thrown their full support behind the bill, and many see it as a strong step towards protecting child passengers.
Even with its potential shortcomings, SB 1010 does go much farther than current Arizona seat belt law and would provide a safer environment for younger passengers.
This is, of course, assuming that SB 1010, as it was passed by the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee, is the bill that actually becomes law. Already, the Arizona Senate has watered down the bill, restricting its scope and the ability of police officers to enforce it.
In late January, the Senate modified the bill to apply only to children ages five through seven and made violations a secondary offense. This means that officers would not be able to stop vehicles simply for violating the booster seat law. Instead, drivers could only be ticketed if they were pulled over for something else.
It remains to be seen whether the bill will be passed and, if so, what the new law will actually restrict.