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NH Senate passes bill requiring car seats with ‘restraints’ for kids up to and including 7-year-olds

CONCORD -- Children up to and including seven-year-olds must be fastened in a “child restraint” car seat under legislation passed by the state Senate Thursday.

The Senate version of the House Bill 242 now must be reconciled with a different House version or the bill will die. The Senate version allows the option of a having a child 57 inches or more in height not ride in a car seat, regardless of age.

Current law requires car seats for any child up to and including five years of age and 54 inches in height.

The House passed a bill on March 20 that increased the requirement for a car seat to six years of age and 55 inches in height. The vote was 224-137.

The Senate version, which passed easily on a voice vote, bill adds six- and seven-year-olds, and those up to 56 inches in height, to the requirement.

The House now can either concur with the Senate change, ask for a committee of conference to work out a compromise, or “non-concur” without a conference committee, effectively killing the bill.

Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, said the Senate increased the age and height requirement that had been in the House version “to concur with national best practice standards.”

He said the Senate Transportation Committee, which had recommended on a 5-0 vote that the bill ought to pass, believes “this will protect our most vulnerable citizens.”

He said his seven-year-old grandchild prefers sitting in a car seat, anyway, because he is able to have a better view out of the windows, Boutin said.

Pat Moody, spokesman for AAA of Northern New England, said last month that his organization preferred a version similar to the one passed Thursday by the Senate, although he had urged a House committee to also include a weight requirement, which is in neither version of House Bill 242.

After the House passed its version last month, 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.”


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