Child restraint devices; raises booster seat age, prohibits certain in front seat. (HB1908)

Introduced By

Del. Dave Albo (R-Springfield) with support from co-patron Del. Tom Rust (R-Herndon)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Child restraint devices. Increases the age that children must be secured in a child restraint device from five to eight and requires that rear-facing child restraint devices for infants from birth to one year shall be secured only in the back seat of motor vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1968. The bill also removes the exemption from required child restraint device use for the rear cargo area of vehicles other than pickup trucks. The bill also increases the age from less than six years old to nine years old for the permitted use of standard seat belt equipment for certain children. Read the Bill »


04/10/2007: signed by governor


01/04/2007Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/10/07 076348204
01/04/2007Referred to Committee on Transportation
01/12/2007Assigned Transportation sub: #3 (Carrico)
01/31/2007Committee substitute printed 079407204-H1
02/01/2007Read first time
02/02/2007Read second time
02/02/2007Committee substitute agreed to 079407204-H1
02/02/2007Pending question ordered
02/02/2007Engrossed by House - committee substitute (55-Y 41-N) HB1908H1
02/02/2007VOTE: ENGROSSMENT (55-Y 41-N) (see vote tally)
02/03/2007Read third time and passed House (56-Y 42-N)
02/03/2007VOTE: PASSAGE (56-Y 42-N) (see vote tally)
02/03/2007Communicated to Senate
02/05/2007Constitutional reading dispensed
02/05/2007Referred to Committee on Transportation
02/19/2007Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N)
02/19/2007VOTE: (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/20/2007Read third time
02/20/2007Reading of amendments waived
02/20/2007Committee amendments agreed to
02/20/2007Engrossed by Senate as amended
02/20/2007Passed Senate with amendments (34-Y 6-N)
02/20/2007VOTE: (34-Y 6-N) (see vote tally)
02/20/2007Reconsideration of Senate passage agreed to by Senate (40-Y 0-N)
02/20/2007VOTE: (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/20/2007Passed Senate with amendments (30-Y 10-N)
02/20/2007VOTE: (30-Y 10-N) (see vote tally)
02/21/2007Placed on Calendar
02/22/2007Senate amendments agreed to by House (55-Y 41-N)
02/22/2007VOTE: ADOPTION (55-Y 41-N) (see vote tally)
03/08/2007Bill text as passed House and Senate (HB1908ER)
03/08/2007Signed by Speaker
03/11/2007Signed by President
03/26/2007Governor's recommendation received by House
03/27/2007Governor's substitute printed 079467129-H2
04/03/2007Placed on Calendar
04/04/2007House rejected Governor's recommendation (22-Y 78-N)
04/04/2007VOTE: ADOPTION (22-Y 78-N) (see vote tally)
04/04/2007Communicated to Governor
04/10/2007G Approved by Governor-Chapter 935 (effective 7/1/07)
04/12/2007G Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0935)


cook writes:

I did not know about this bill until this week when my distraught seven-year-old daughter announced that, after more than a year since her car seat was handed down to another family, we will have to ask for it back in time for our trip to the beach in July. No, I assured her, the General Assembly wouldn't do something that ridiculous. I shouldn't underestimate the GA in that regard.

For my daughter it is an issue of "but I'm not a baby anymore"; for my wife it's the hassle of exchanging car seats when swapping cars or kids or driving on school field trips; for me it is one more incremental surrender to the government of our freedom to make decisions for our families. Where will it end? Helmets.

Sidonie writes:

Um, how about a backless booster seat? They're pretty unobtrusive (so kids feel less like they're in a baby seat), and they're pretty cheap, so both cars can have one (just keep a spare in the trunk). Doesn't sound all that difficult...unless, of course, you want to make it as difficult as possible so you can feel oppressed.

Incremental surrender of your freedom to make the wrong decision for a person who is dependent on you? What, should the government drop the car seat law for infants and kids under 5, too? Is that also an egregious surrender of parental power? If not--if you would keep the law for infants--then what exactly is the problem with extending it to 8 year olds if that's what the research supports?

cook writes:


On a practical level, the standard seatbelt works well for my seven-year-old and most (if not all) six and seven year-olds.

But, on the other hand, there is research to support the proposition that the "Hutchins Device" saves lives. Follow this link: Should the General Assembly require the installation and use of such a restraint system? Now that you have seen that system, is it "wrong" for you to not use it for your family?

I recognize, of course, that for most people without 5-7 year-olds in their families, this amendment is "not at all that difficult" to accept. Fair enough. But don't you see that the laws passed by the General Assembly never expand liberty; and they never diminish liberty by an "egregious" amount all at once. Rather, like the dripping of water in a limestone cave, they just slowly take away choice and freedom in very tolerable amounts and in very reasonable situations.

To me, that is troublesome, because I value freedom as one of the highest political virtues. I fear, however, that our generation is too willing at times to trade away freedom for the lesser and elusive virtues of "security" and "safety."

Waldo Jaquith writes:

So, just to be clear, you're going on record saying that infants should not be required to be restrained in cars?

Sidonie writes:

Yeah, you haven't answered my question: if you believe that "laws passed by the General Assembly never expand liberty" (a claim I wouldn't necessarily accept, but for the sake of argument here...), and if you believe that regulations like car-seat laws are like the dripping of water in the limestone cave, slowly taking away choice and freedom etc. etc., then what is your position on infant car seat laws? By your reasoning, if expanding the regulation to include 5-7 year olds is an objectionable assault on parental freedom, then so is the infant car seat requirement. I can't divine what your logical distinction would be between the two categories of child--by the reasoning you present, there can't be any distinction.

I harp on this question because I believe the government has a responsibility to ensure that minor citizens of this nation are provided with some bare minimum of protection (what you call the elusive virtues of security and safety). I don't think it's okay for the GA to leave it up to parents whether or not to put their baby in a car seat or just let it roll around on the back seat while they tool down the highway.

Other things the GA/Congress regulates that are Fine By Me: setting speed limits that impinge on my freedom to drive as fast as I want; yearly auto inspection requirements that impinge on my freedom to drive a dangerously broken-down car; regulations on gun-ownership that impinge on my freedom to buy a gun on a moment's notice with no proof that I know how to use it and with no record that I own it; laws that require me either to send my children to school or to provide adequately for their schooling myself, impinging on my freedom to raise my children as I see fit; oh, I'm getting tired of thinking of all the federal and state regulations that I'm GLAD impinge on my freedoms.

I think freedom is important, but I don't fetishize it. There are other things that are important, too. Some "freedoms" are trivial, and I just don't buy the slippery slope argument that if we don't cry bloody murder at every limit set to personal freedom, no matter how minor, then we're all doomed.

Oh, the Hutchens device: well, if it got to the point where (a) seat belts didn't seem to be doing a good enough job of saving lives, and (b) lots of research supported the use of the Hutchens device as the best way to prevent deaths in auto accidents, and (c) the social/cultural climate developed that would permit Congress to mandate the auto companies to add this device to all new cars (like seat belts and airbags), and (d) having mandated manufacturers to include it, Congress then mandated that drivers use it, then yeah, I'd use it. I mean, the analogy is kind of lame in that you hystercize (my word, I made it up) the process by which regulations get formulated and handed down: legislative bodies just aren't that radical. The laws/regulations that get passed bubble up from a historical or research context that has some credibility (not necessarily universal, but some); they meet with some level of public acceptance or enthusiasm; finally, and most importantly, they are deemed to be reasonable in terms of implementation, which in our case includes the impact on the auto industry to incorporate these devices into the car. So this analogy of "here's a device I randomly found on the internet that protects NASCAR drivers(!!!), now imagine the GA wants you to go and buy one yourself and install it and use it, there, don't you see how oppressive it is for the GA to make me put my 7 year old in a booster seat?"--I'm sorry, it's just not working for me.

Sidonie writes:

Oh, and I have a 6 year old in my family. This bill is not all that difficult for me to accept.

Lucy writes:

What about school buses? If parents are required to keep children in car seats or boosters through age 8, won't they need these restraints on the bus as well? We're talking through the 4th grade for many children.

I have never understood why children are allowed to ride the bus without seat belts when parents are required to ensure this in a personal car.

How important is the safety of our children when it comes to the responsibility of the school system? Or, will parents need to buy another seat for the bus? Picture your petite 1st grade daughter lugging her car seat around school...

If it's going to be a law for families, make it a law for public transportation as well. For seat belts!

Sidonie writes:

Hmm. Do I want every child on my kid's school bus individually strapped into a booster seat or a seat belt? Let's imagine there's a fire and they have to exit through the back quickly. My 6 year old often struggles with the seat belt in his booster seat--the strap gets twisted, he can't reach his hand down to the part the belt buckles into, etc. Multiply his struggles by, say, half of the # of kids on the school bus (we'll grant that maybe half of them can get their belts off quickly). The bus driver is trying to help each struggling, panicking child to undo his or her belt while the fire rages at the front of the bus.

NO THANK YOU. I'd rather have them all able to exit the bus as quickly as possible.

The reasons against having seat belts on school buses are largely good: first, statistically speaking, accidents involving school buses are less common than accidents involving cars. Your kid is more likely, statistically speaking, to get in a wreck in the family van than on a school bus.

Second, the practical concerns are valid: helping little ones to buckle and unbuckle their belts every time, making sure that no one has done it incorrectly, constitutes both a distraction for the bus driver and a safety risk in the event of the need for an emergency exit.

Sure, we could demand that the schools post multiple aides on every bus expressly for the purpose of monitoring seat belt use, but that would need to be paid for, and many people raise quite a fuss whenever their taxes go that could be a hard sell.

Lucy writes:

It always comes down to the money. That was just my point. As long as it's up to families to foot the bill and families to lug around carseats for another 3 years, it's fine. But when the government has to abide by its own rules, somehow, it's not a great idea anymore.

Statistics don't really make a difference to me in this case. I'm not willing to offer up my child or 30 kids on any other bus that might have an accident. If it's so important that there has to be a law making parent's decisions for them then it must be important enough for the public school system to at least provide a seat belt for older kids.

What keeps them from having seat belts for the older kids?

Waldo Jaquith writes:

Seat belts aren't just unnecessary on school buses, they're harmful. The safety of children on school buses is assured by two mechanisms.

The first is inertia and mass. School buses are big, heavy things. There are very few other vehicles on the road with enough mass to have much of an impact on school buses. I remember when I was in middle school and some fool rear-ended my school bus while we were stopped to let a kid off. The bus barely budged. There was a slight sway. Nobody was in the least bit concerned until a kid sitting in the back pointed out that a car was totally crumpled against the back of our bus. By virtue of being one of the biggest things on the road, collisions simply aren't a problem.

The second thing going for school buses is what's known as "compartmentalization." This is the principal behind having heavily-padded, heavily-reinforced seats, putting each kid in a safe compartment that makes it impossible to be thrown more than a couple of feet and, if a kid is thrown, that gives them a soft landing.

Can you guess how many collisions involve a school bus result in injury of a student in the whole of the United States each year? One hundred per state? Ten per state? One hundred for the nation? Try a dozen for the whole of the country. Those accidents that do result in death are defined as "catastrophic" (fire, explosion, driving off bridges, etc.), for which seat belts are seen as unlikely to make any difference.

So we can see that seat belts simply aren't necessary. But what happens when they're added? Well, that's been studied. Turns out they're pretty dangerous. As you may know, a seat belt worn too high -- around the waist, rather than the hips -- is enormously dangerous. A minor accident can result in permanent paralysis. It's difficult for a parent with a few children in a minivan to ensure that all of their children are wearing their lap belts properly; it's impossible for a school bus driver to do so. Putting monitors on buses has no impact on the rate of usage of seat belts.

In terms of passenger miles and accident rates, there is simply no safer means of surface transportation than the school bus.

See DOT/DHTSA's report for full details about school bus seat belt tests and accident statistics, including all of the figures that I've cited here.

Sidonie writes:

Lucy, you kind of blew off the fire scenario--do you want your kid in that situation? Maybe you don't have kids. Or maybe you home school them and it doesn't matter. But just try to imagine it. I see seat belts on buses as pretty unworkable and dangerous.

And if it always does come down to money, i.e., taxation, how is the refusal to fund something the government's fault? Where does the money come from to fund schools, buses, etc? From taxpayers. And if taxpayers don't want to pay any more taxes, then it seems it's their/our own fault if we can't fund things.

You seem committed to the conclusion that "the government" (read: moms and dads just like you who happen to work for the government) wants to make "the people" (which category includes our elected representatives, who of course live here, drive cars, have kids, send those kids to public schools, etc) do all kinds of absurd things for no good reason at all while somehow "not abiding" by its own rules.

If all the research suggests that kids in cars are safest in car seats until they are 7 years old, and if all the research suggests that seat belts on school buses pose more of a danger than a solution, then what's wrong with the current laws?