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March 24. 2013 9:33PM

Some NH parents would welcome law to keep kids in car, booster seats longer


Michelle Langlois of Manchester demonstrates how she buckles up her daughter, Natalie. State legislators are considering hiking the age for keeping kids in child-restraint seats. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Car seat guidelines

Birth to 12 months: Keep child in a rear-facing car seat.

1 to 3 years: Keep child in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible. Once the child reaches the top height or weight limit set by the seat manufacturer, the kid should ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

4 to 7 years: Keep child in a forward-facing seat with a harness until the child reaches the top height or weight limit. Then it's time for a booster seat for the back seat.

8 to 12 years: Keep child in a booster seat until the child is large enough to fit in a seatbelt properly. That means the belt should fit snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should be snug across the shoulder and chest, not crossing the neck or face. Child should ride in back seat because it's safer.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Manchester mom Michelle Langlois welcomed the news that legislators are moving toward raising the minimum age for children to ride in car seats or booster seats until age 7.

"I always think the longer, the better," she said.

But she would like the law to go even further. "I would strongly urge height and weight (be included)," she said. "Every child is built differently."

Unlike Maine, New Hampshire doesn't include a weight requirement in its law, according to Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. He testified before a House committee last month.

Moody said the original bill, which he supported, sought to raise the minimum age from the current 6 to age 8, but a House committee last month approved an amendment making it age 7. New Hampshire is one of 18 states that doesn't require booster seats for children between 7 and 8, he said.

But not everybody was sold on changing the minimum age, since for decades parents didn't face such restrictions.

"I don't know how we ever lived," said Brenda Sirois, a retired nurse and current care giver at Tumbleweeds Child Care Inc. in Manchester. "We all should have been dead and thrown out of cars."

She said height and weight should dictate seat requirements.

"The difference between kids is quite amazing, Sirois said. "Some of them, they're just too big for it."

The House last Wednesday voted 224-137 to require parents to use a child restraint system for any kid younger than age 7, rather than the current age of 6. Under House Bill 242, any child reaching 56 inches in height would be exempted, an inch taller than current law. The bill still needs approval in the Senate and the governor's signature.

House Minority Leader Gene Chandler voted against raising the age.

"I think the present law seemed to have worked," he said. "We don't need to tinker with it."

But unlike some colleagues, he said, "I do believe there is a place for having the present law."

Gov. Maggie Hassan's spokesman, Marc Goldberg said: "The governor supports measures to keep our children as safe as possible, including through the use of proper safety measures in vehicles, and she looks forward to hearing from stakeholders and fully evaluating the legislation to update current New Hampshire child safety laws as it is considered by the Senate,"

Goffstown police Capt. Rob Browne likes the proposed change.

"Anything that keeps the kids safe," he said. "We're probably pulling them out a little too early."

The department has two car seat technicians who install car seats and inspect car seats parents placed in their vehicles. About 30 people set up appointments last year, he said.

Manchester firefighter Ryan Lang, one of the department's three car seat technicians, said he would leave it up to legislators to decide. People can make appointments to have their seat installed or inspected. The department conducted 132 inspections and installations last year. (Parents can check with their local fire or police department to see if they offer assistance.)

Lang said some parents "bring the box" for technicians to install the seat. People sometimes install seats and leave too much sliding movement or don't get the correct seat angle. He urged parents to fill out a slip that comes in the car seat box. That form is for a warranty and any future recall notifications, Lang said.

Nina Cullen, owner of the children's store, Nini Bambini in Bedford, sees lots of young children coming into her store carried in car seats.

"The older we can keep them in (a seat) the better," she said. "Some kids you'll find are in booster seats until they're in the third or fourth grade."

Installation, inspection

. Manchester Fire Department, call 669-2256 x3333.

. Bedford Fire Department, call 472-3219, press 8.

. Nashua Police Department, 594-3500, contact Sgt. Todd Martyny.

. Londonderry CPS Program, call 432-1104, x 4623.

. Goffstown Police Department, call 497-4858.

. Concord Hospital, 230-7300

mcousineau@unionleader.com

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