Given Washington state’s historic role in establishing child booster seat requirements, it was especially distressing to read that the law was ignored in Thursday’s crash involving two city-owned vans transporting 19 children from the Northeast Youth Center to two elementary schools. Six of the children were required to be strapped into booster seats. Not one of them was.
Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt, though 15 children were transported to hospitals. That’s a phone call no parent wants to receive. Police say the appropriate parties will receive citations, but we can all learn from the incident.
Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death among young children, but thanks to determined parents and sensible lawmakers, the toll has declined. Washington state adopted path-breaking legislation in 2000 and has updated it. Other states have followed suit. The law requires booster seats for the “forgotten children.” Those are the kids between ages 4 and 8 who are too big for child restraint seats and too small for traditional seat belts. In 2002, Congress passed a federal law that required auto manufacturers to add lap and shoulder restraints for the middle back seat in new cars.
Both laws were named for Anton Skeen, a 4-year-old Walla Walla boy who slipped from his buckled seat belt in a rollover accident and was thrown from the vehicle and killed. His mother, Autumn, campaigned fiercely for the changes in Washington state and nationwide after discovering that seat belts were designed for larger people.
The Northeast Youth Center’s director couldn’t explain why the children weren’t in the available booster seats, but she did say all of the center’s staff members have been trained to transport children. As summer approaches and children move from school buses to smaller vehicles for transportation at day care centers, camps or other activities, it’s worth going over the basic requirements.
State law has specific guidelines for child care facilities, and they make sense for anyone who has to ferry groups of children around. Read the accompanying information box and please follow the guidelines. There’s no excuse for tempting tragedy.
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