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Child safety is state's duty

When it comes to the safety of children, the law should err on protecting their lives and their interests.

That's why Utah has laws that require children to ride in infant, child and booster seats. These devices help protect children in the event of motor vehicle crashes. An unrestrained child, or an improperly restrained child, can sustain serious injury or be killed in an accident.

While a seat belt is better than no restraint at all, booster seats are a better choice, because they elevate the child so that a shoulder belt fits snugly over the middle of the shoulder and the center of the chest — the strongest part of a child's body. A booster seat reduces a child's risk of injury by 59 percent.

Given the many safety benefits of requiring Utah children ages 5 to 8 to use booster seats, it is difficult to understand the motivation behind proposed legislation to liberalize that requirement under certain circumstances.

There are occasions when this requirement is inconvenient, such as when carpooling. Some parents skirt the law when they need to drive several children to a sports practice, a church activity or dance class. The proposed legislation would sanction this unsafe — and currently, illegal — choice.

HB113 would allow an exemption for a trip of less than four miles and at speeds of less than 45 mph.

This proposal is flawed. More than half of all motor vehicle accidents occur within a five-mile radius of home. People can be killed or seriously injured in accidents at relatively low speeds.

Even if a driver ferrying children abides by speed limits, many other drivers do not observe these limits, thus putting all other drivers and their passengers at risk.

The truth of the matter is that parents of children up to age 8 need to make conscientious decisions regarding the transportation of their children. If their automobile is not large enough to carry multiple children and their required child safety seat or booster seat, they should not participate in carpools.

Utah's booster-seat law exists for a reason. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 4 to 14. Booster seats help enhance safety. Utah, a state that values its children, should not water down this law.