FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
At Baby Emporium in Kakaako yesterday, owner Tom Kim showed child booster seats in line with the state's new booster-seat law, which takes effect Jan. 1. CLICK FOR LARGE
Many isle parents 'clueless' about new booster-seat law
But some stores have seen a rise in sales of seats
With the new statewide booster-seat law to take effect in less than two weeks, some retailers say many parents don't know what will be required of them.
"A lot of people out there are still clueless," said Tom Kim, owner of Baby Emporium in Kakaako.
"We have to let them know of the changes in the law and what they are going to be," Kim said. "We tell them, 'Hey listen, you need this sort of seat.'"
For more information on the new law, call the Keiki Injury Prevention Coalition at 537-9200 or go to their Web site at www.KIPChawaii.org.
Starting Jan. 1, children between ages 4 and 7 will be required to use a booster seat in a vehicle. Children taller than 4 feet 9 and vehicles with only lap seats in the back seat are exceptions to the new law.
"People need to get serious about it. It's an important issue." said Capt. Charles Hirata of the Maui Police Department, a certified child passenger safety seat instructor who lobbied for the new law. "People got to realize it's a traffic crime, not a violation."
Drivers who violate the law face a $500 maximum fine and a mandatory court appearance. "You just can't pay it off, you have to go to court," Hirata said.
Violators will also be required to attend a four-hour class and provide proof of compliance at a second court appearance.
Hirata suggested giving loved ones a booster seat as a Christmas present if shoppers are aware of the make and layout of the vehicle and knowledgeable about the child's size. "People may want to consider putting it on a list of gifts to purchase," he said.
Along with safety, it's important that the child is comfortable, said Kim, who recommended that parents have their child sit in the booster seat for about five to 10 minutes before purchasing it.
So far, Baby Emporium has seen sales of booster seats rise, but it's doing better selling seats with a five-point harness system. Some of these models can fit a child of up to 80 pounds.
"Those are flying out the door. I can't keep them in stock," Kim said.
Booster seats at Baby Emporium range from $79 to $150, while seats with the five-point harness cost about $250.
Kmart in Waipahu also has seen an increase in booster-seat sales since the beginning of the month, prompting additional orders, store manager Tim Gerken said.
"We have procured more in anticipation of the law taking into effect," Gerken said. Prices for booster seats at Kmart range from $40 to $80.
According to the Department of Health's Injury Prevention and Control Program, almost 600 children between ages 4 and 7 are involved in major car crashes in Hawaii every year.
Seat belts are designed for older children and adults, not for children under 80 pounds, according to officials. Booster seats lower the risk of injury by 50 percent compared to using just a seat belt, officials said.
NEW BOOSTER-SEAT REQUIREMENTS
Rules and guidelines for the new booster-seat law, effective Jan. 1:
» The law applies to children between the ages 4 and 7. Children taller than 4 feet 9 are exempt from the law.
» Use until the vehicle lap and shoulder belt fit correctly. (The lap belt should fit low and snug on their hips. The shoulder belt should not cross over a child's face or neck.)
» Do not put the shoulder belt behind children's backs or under their arms.
» A high-back or low-back booster with no shield may be used.
» A child who cannot sit with his or her back against the auto seat and knees comfortably bent over the seat edge without slouching must use a booster seat no matter what age, weight or height.
» Children should be placed in a booster seat in the "outboard position," either in the right or left back seat of the vehicle that has a lap and shoulder belt.
Source: Department of Transportation, Keiki Injury Prevention Coalition and Capt. Charles Hirata of the Maui Police Department