With a new state law requiring booster seats for children between the ages of 5 and 8 years, families are invited to a free booster seat distribution Thursday, May 24.
TMC for Children, the proud lead agency of Safe Kids Tucson, is joining with the Tucson Police Department to offer 150 free booster seats to families at the Santa Cruz Substation 4410 S. Park Ave., between Ajo Way and Irvington Road.
The event runs from noon until 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 24 and will be first-come, first-served until the seats run out. The child must be present.
With Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature earlier this month, Arizona lost its dubious status as being one of three states that didn’t require booster seats for children.
Already, children under the age of 5 were required to be in a car seat. But when the new law takes effect Aug. 2, children between the ages of 5 and 8, who are shorter than 4 feet 10 inches, must have that little extra height under their booties so their seat belts work appropriately.
Funding for the booster seats came from the Tohono O’odham Tribe, awarded to the City of Tucson and Council member Richard Fimbres’ office.
"Research has shown us that booster seats and seat belts do save lives," said Ward 5 Councilmember Richard Fimbres, a former director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
"Front-seat passenger-car occupants correctly wearing a safety belt have a 45 percent chance of surviving a automobile collision. The odds go up to 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans. So always remember to secure your child in a car seat or booster seat and always wear your seat belt."
For years, child safety advocates have argued that it’s not enough to allow 5-year-olds to use regular seat belts. Statistics from the Arizona Department of Health Services indicated seven of the nine children in that age range who died in a vehicle crash in 2009 were not properly restrained in a booster seat.
Since cars are designed for adults, seat belts typically won’t rest on children at the hard contact points along the hip bones, sternum and shoulders, explained TMC’s community outreach specialist Yomaira Diaz, who is an instructor-level child passenger safety seat technician and the Safe Kids Tucson coordinator.
To make the seat belts more comfortable, kids might slouch down into the seat, or they might put the seat belt under their arm, instead of over the shoulder. That prevents the seat belt from protecting children against whiplash or internal injuries if an accident occurs.
“A lot of these injuries are preventable,” Diaz said. “Just that little booster, believe it or not, will save lives.”
Diaz said the compliance deadline is going to come faster than parents realize.
Those unable to go to Thursday’s distribution can take advantage of the Kohl’s Cares for Kids and the Tucson Medical Center Foundation’s “Boost Your Booty” program. Booster seats are free for children who are at least 5 years old, with a weight of at least 40 pounds. The child must be present for the fitting. For an appointment, call TMC’s Boost Your Booty program at 324-5604.