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Congress Moves to Protect Young Children in Crashes

Nov. 19, 2002

Congress Moves to Protect Young Children in Crashes

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

Both houses of Congress yesterday took an important step toward protecting the lives of children by passing Anton’s Law, which calls for meaningful standards and performance requirements for booster seats for children between the ages of 4 and 8. We expect that President Bush will sign it into law.

Children between 4 and 8 are at an unconscionably high risk in automobile crashes because they are either unrestrained or they are strapped into adult safety belts that are not designed to fit them. Available booster seats can slide or tip in a collision; are often installed incorrectly or simply incompatible with the family vehicle, even though compatibility is a crucial issue for safety; are not regulated for children over 50 pounds; and are not crash-tested in vehicles. Parents and caregivers must be assured that seats they use truly will do what manufacturers promise.

This legislation would not have come as far as it has if it were not for the tireless work of Autumn Skeen, whose 4-year-old son Anton was killed in a 1996 crash. Following her tragic loss, Ms. Skeen, of Walla Walla, Wa., has been a crusader for child safety. She persuaded the Washington state legislature to pass the country’s first booster seat law and has testified before Congress on the importance of federal standards.

Passing and implementing Anton’s Law are sorely needed first steps. We are very pleased the bill includes a $5 million authorization for evaluating built-in child restraints. We urge the government to take the first steps immediately to require that automakers make built-in child safety seats with five-point harnesses standard in all domestically sold vehicles. We absolutely must close the safety gap that leaves these children unprotected.