Booster seats now law in Massachusetts

John Hilliard

Parents must place their school-age children in proper safety or booster seats to comply with a new state law that safety officials say is needed to protect kids in a car crash.

Nicknamed the “Booster Seat Bill,” the legislation was signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick in April and takes effect beginning tomorrow, according to State Police Sgt. Timothy Finn. The bill was authored by state Sen. Steven Baddour, D-Methuen.

The law requires children under 8 years of age - or shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches - to use a child safety seat or a booster seat while traveling in a vehicle. For kids who outgrow a traditional child safety seat, the booster seat raises a child higher so a vehicle’s existing seat belt properly fits around a kid’s shoulder and lap. An ill-fitting belt can injure a child during a car accident.

Before the new law, only children up to the age or 5 or who weigh 40 pounds needed to be kept in a safety or booster seat. The new requirement matches a recommendation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that kids  younger than age 8 or shorter than the height of 4 feet, 9 inches, use such a device.

Parents who don’t obey the new law face a $25 fine for each offense, and police can stop a driver if they have children who are not using a safety or booster seat in a vehicle, said Finn.

“If I’m driving along, and I see a child is not properly restrained, I can stop you for that reason alone,” said Finn.

According to a 2006 study by the NHTSA, about 41 percent of kids ages 4 to 7 were restrained in booster seats that year. Each year, about 350 kids in that age group die in traffic accidents, and 50,000 more are injured, according to the agency.

At the Westborough Fire Department, firefighter and paramedic Keith Lermond said the department’s seven safety seat technicians - including himself - install as many as 20 seats a week for parents.

Booster seats tend to be easier to install because the designs are simpler, he said, but the department will help parents who need assistance getting the device into their cars.

“It gets confusing for people - we’re here to put (seats) in safely for them,” said Lermond.

While some older kids might balk at a booster seat, a child’s safety should be most important, he said.

“They should be in a booster seat until they’re 8 years old,” said Lermond.

For more information on how to obtain or properly install child passenger restraints, call the Massachusetts Child Passenger Safety Hotline at 1-877-392-5956, TTY 1-617-725-0261, or go to