Booster-seat revision backed A state law covers children 8 or younger or less than 80 pounds. A Senate panel voted for "6 or 60" instead.

Posted: December 14, 2001

TRENTON — The nation's most stringent booster-seat law, hailed by child-safety advocates and cursed by parents of 7-year-olds, may have a short life span.

Since Dec. 1, New Jersey has required children who are 8 or younger or weigh less than 80 pounds to be strapped into a booster seat.

Yesterday, the state Senate Transportation Committee voted, 3-1, to advance a bill that would take two years and 20 pounds away from that law. The full Senate may vote on the bill as early as next week.

Sen. John H. Adler (D., Camden), at the urging of his 6-year-old son, Andrew, introduced the "6 or 60" law. It was cosponsored by Sen. Leonard T. Connors Jr. (R., Ocean).

The committee hearing featured emotional testimony from nurses and insurance companies in support of the current law, and from parents of 6- and 7-year-olds who begged for an end to their backseat battles.

A similar amendment to the booster-seat law - a "5 or 50" bill, also sponsored by Adler - was defeated in the Senate's Law and Public Safety Committee just two days before the "8 or 80" law took effect.

New Jersey is the only state to pass the regulation in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's recommendations. Six other states have booster-seat laws, but most are "5 or 50" laws. Out-of-state drivers are not exempt from New Jersey's law.

"I think this version passed because people could draw the distinction that first graders and up are allowed out of the booster seats, while the little ones, the kindergartners and preschoolers, are not," Adler said.

As for Andrew, Adler said his son now rides in a booster seat - but that most of his friends are scofflaws.

Kaitlin Gurney's e-mail address is kgurney@phillynews.com.

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