Mark Alexander, a personal injury attorney with the Gainesville, Ga. law firm Stewart Melvin & Frost, specializes in personal injury cases and has worked with numerous unfortunate cases involving serious accidents and injuries. Therefore, he is especially sensitive to personal safety issues, which were the impetus for both of these new motorist laws that we will be discussing with him.
Question: What do parents of young children need to know about the new law concerning child booster seats?
Mark: As of July 1, 2011, booster seats in cars, vans and pick-up trucks are now required for kids up to 8 years of age. The old safety-seat law only specified children up to age 5, so they have added another three years to the requirement. This new law brings Georgia in line with the age recommendations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Question: Are there any other requirements?
Mark: The car seat or booster seat must be secured in the rear seat unless the vehicle, such as a small pick-up truck, does not have a rear seat. Then the child may sit in the front seat – but still remain in a child passenger safety restraint device. Another requirement is that the booster seat must be appropriate for the child’s weight and height. So, small infants would require a different type of car seat than a larger toddler, for instance.
Question: Are there any other exemptions to the new law?
Mark: Children under age 8 whose height is over 4 feet, 9 inches.
Children who weigh at least 40 pounds – but only if they use a lap and shoulder belt (unless the car doesn’t have them). If the car does not have a lap and shoulder harness belt, then the child may use a lap belt, but only if they weigh 40 pounds or more.
Child is exempt if parent has physician statement of a medical condition that prevents the child from being placed and restrained in a car seat.
Other exempt vehicles include taxi cabs and public transit.
Question: What prompted this change in Georgia’s child seat law?
Mark: Recent highway statistics showed a dramatic number of children between 6 and 8 years old who were either injured or killed in car accidents across the state of Georgia. In that study, the statistics revealed that only 12 percent of those children involved in wrecks were properly using a child passenger restraint such as a booster seat. Georgia State Senator Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga, one of the sponsors of the new law, cited statistics from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta that during the last four years, 95 percent of children between 6 and 8 years old whom they treated for injuries in a car crash had been improperly restrained.
National highway safety statistics reveal that children using booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a car crash than if they wear a seat belt alone.
Question: What do booster seats do to protect the child?
Mark: Seat belts are made for adults. Consequently, they do not fit correctly for young children.
Booster seats raise children up so that the adult seat belt fits them – allowing the shoulder harness to strap them across the chest as opposed to their neck or head.
Question: What is the punishment for not following the new booster seat law?
Mark: First conviction: Up to $50, plus a point assessed against your driver’s license, affecting your auto insurance rates. Second and subsequent convictions: up to $100 per violation, plus two points assessed against your driver’s license.
Question: Georgia has a new bicycle law. What are components of the Better Bicycling Bill?
Mark: While the booster seat law applies to children inside a car, Georgia also enacted new legislation to protect bicyclists of all ages who are sharing the road with motorized vehicles.
On July 1, Georgia’s new “Better Bicycling Bill” changed the way automobiles and bicycles are allowed to operate in the state. HB 101 requires motorists passing bicyclists to leave a minimum of three feet of clearance between the vehicle and the bicycle.
Georgia is the 18th state to pass this new bicycle passing requirement.
The new law also provides other bicycle lane safety standards:
Gives cyclists the right of way when they’re traveling in bicycle lanes;
Designates specific conditions for a bicycle to move into the middle of a regular travel lane;
And allows for the bicycle rider’s extended right arm to be accepted as a right turn signal.