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Keep kids safe
New booster seat law takes effect Friday
3-Car Seat Law pic01
Lanier Swafford, chief of Dawson County Emergency Services, secures his son, Bailey, into a car seat. - photo by Morgan Bennett Dawson Community News

The car or booster seat must:

• Be in the rear seat.

• Be appropriate for the child's weight and height.

• Meet all federal standards.

• Be installed and used according to the manufacturer's instructions.

The following exemptions apply:

• Children younger than 8 who are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.

• A written statement from a physician that a physical or medical condition prevents placing or restraining the child as required by law.

• Exemptions include taxicabs and public transit vehicles.

A new state law that takes effect Friday will keep children in car safety seats until their eighth birthday.

Signed into law in May, the requirement is designed to reduce the risk of child injuries and fatalities on state roads.

"This is to keep smaller kids that the state felt are still too small to be just riding in a seatbelt that is designed for adults safe," said Dawson County Sheriff's Capt. Tony Wooten.

Under the previous requirements, children had to remain in a car seat or booster seat until they were 6.

There are some exemptions to the new law, but not many.

Local groups dedicated to child safety are mobilizing to get the word out to parents about the change and offering booster seats to families needing them.

Katie Strayhorn is chairwoman of the Child Fatality Review Panel in Dawson County.

She said the group, in conjunction with the Georgia State Patrol, will offer child seat safety checks from 9 to 11 a.m. July 28 at the Dawson County Health Department.

Certified child passenger safety specialists will check car seats and booster seats for proper installation.

Wooten said Dawson County SafeKids will provide booster seats to families who cannot afford them.

"Booster seats are not that expensive, but if anyone needs one, we're going to try to provide those," he said.

Fines begin at $50 for violating the new law, though local law officers said enforcement comes second to making sure motorists have knowledge of the new law and know why it was enacted.

"At this time, it's about making sure people understand the new law and that it's there to keep kids safe," Wooten said.