GIVE PARENTS BOOST IN COMPLYING WITH LAW

August 28, 2001 11:00 pm

The State of Oregon and its communities should begin gearing up now to figure out how to help parents comply with the states new booster seat law, which takes effect in January.

Parents will be required to provide approved automotive booster seats for children between 4 and 6 years of age who weigh between 40 and 60 pounds. These youngsters are too big for infant or toddler safety seats, but often do not fit properly in adult seat belts and shoulder straps.

In some cases, a preschool child may slide out from under a belt during a crash. A youngster in a crash also could receive injuries to their throat or mid-section because of the way shoulder and seat belts land on their bodies.

The required booster seats will prop a child high enough that the lap and shoulder belts will work effectively.

The problem for some parents will be the cost. Federally approved seats, carrying the code FMVSS213 on the label, run $22 to $150, depending on the type.

That expense could come as a shock in December to parents who are scraping enough dollars together to buy Christmas gifts for the kids. Parents will not want to put off acquiring a seat for long, however. The fine in Oregon for violating the booster seat law will be $79.

Ford Motor Co. will address part of the problem through its Boost America program, providing seats to parents while supplies last. The Roberts Ford dealership in La Grande is looking into participating in the program.

Beyond that, the state should work with local communities to make sure that booster seats are affordable for all parents who need them. The safety of youngsters in the 4 through 6 age group is at stake. And so are the pocketbooks of parents who fail to install a seat, but are jolted by a hefty fine when cited for disobeying the law.

GREAT INTEREST SHOWN

Those planning to visit the United States newest national attraction anytime soon will need to be patient.

Congress brought the 95,000-acre Baca ranch in northern New Mexico for $101 million last year. The board of trustees of what is now called the Valles Caldera National Preserve opened up 1,300 slots for bus and walking tours this week. By Tuesday, all the slots were reserved and thousands of people were turned away from seeing the formerly family-owned ranch.

Why all the interest in Valles Caldera? Those visiting the preserve will have a chance to see fishing streams, hot springs, grassy valleys, one of the largest elk herds in the country and the remains of a huge, ancient volcano.

The response to the initial six days of tours was overwhelming. Trustees will need to get their heads together soon to figure out how thousands more can be provided access to what is sure to be thought of as a national treasure.