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April 02. 2013 10:30PM

Older, taller kids would be in car seats under proposed law

CONCORD - Some New Hampshire lawmakers want to increase the time a child is required to ride in a car seat.

On Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee voted 5-0 to change the law to under 8 years old - a year older than the House OK'd last month. Current law states children must be in a seat restraint system until they are 6.

The Senate committee also increased the height requirement - from 55 to 57 inches tall.

The two changes would bring New Hampshire into compliance with national recommendations and give the Granite State the same standards as 33 other states, including four in New England.

No one at Tuesday's public hearing on House Bill 242 testified against it.

The bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Sally Kelly, D-Chichester, said national studies show raising the age for children in restraint systems will save lives. She said no child under 13 should be in the front seat of a car.

Department of Safety statistics indicate that 65 to 75 percent of people in fatal accidents were not wearing seatbelts. New Hampshire has a voluntary seatbelt law, although surveys indicate about 75 percent of people in vehicles on New Hampshire highways buckle up.

HB 242 passed the House last month on a 224-137 vote, although the House Transportation Committee had failed to recommend the bill when it contained the age and height requirements the Senate committee added Tuesday.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, said her committee tied 9-9 on the original bill.

"Some committee members do not believe the state should be dictating to parents what to do with their child," she said.

She indicated the bill may have a more difficult time passing with the higher age and height.

The bill is likely to be voted on by the full Senate later this month.

If the Senate approves the changes, the bill would go back to the House for another vote.

The Department of Safety supports the bill, along with the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the NH Medical Society, the NH Public Health Association, the Brain Injury Association of NH and several insurance companies, including State Farm and the American Automobile Association of Northern New England.

grayno@unionleader.com


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