New Jersey's child seat belt laws are not only antiquated, they're also too vague, according to state Sen. Jim Beach (D-Cherry Hill).

Mother Putting Son in Car Seat (Fuse, ThinkStock)

The lawmaker said the law needs to be updated. According to AAA New Jersey, almost three-quarters of Garden State children in a car safety seat are not properly secured.

"In New Jersey we have not updated our child seat safety laws in more than 30 years, which means we need to catch up with the modern capabilities of the car seats for the safety of our kids," Beach said.

Beach is the prime sponsor of legislation to update the state's laws to reflect recommendations from theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics and the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety. Under the bill (S-2026):

  • Children under 2 years old who weigh less than 30 pounds must be in the back seat facing the rear of the vehicle and secured in a five-point harness seat.
  • Children between the ages of 2 and 4 and who weigh between 30 and 40 pounds must be in a five-point harness seat, facing either front or back based on their size and weight.
  • Children between the ages of 4 and 8 who are less than 57 inches in height must be secured in a five-point harness seat or placed in a booster seat.

"Look at the story about the 18-month-old girl in Utah that survived 14 hours in her car seat upside down just last week. Had that happened in a different car seat she may not be with us today," Beach said.

Eighteen-month-old Lily Groesbeck survived the ordeal largely because she had been properly secured in a five-point harness. Tragically, Lily's 25-year-old mother, Lynn Groesbeck, did not survive. The importance of correctly securing children in car seats is critical, but very often overlooked according to AAA  New Jersey.

AAA statistics revealed that motor vehicle crashes killed 1,314 children 14 years of age and younger in 2009 and injured 179,000 others. That is approximately four children killed and 490 injured per day -- enough to rank motor vehicle crashes as the top killer of children between ages 3 and14 in the United States. In addition, 74 percent of kids in car seat are not properly secured.

"Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for children over the age of 6 months, but when we look at kids in car seats, three out of four of them are in their car seat improperly installed or improperly used," said Cathleen Lewis, AAA Clubs of New Jersey regional director of Public and Government Affairs.

The bill is sponsored in the Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-Voorhees). It was approved in that house by a vote of 77-0. Monday, the Senate approved Beach's identical measure 39-0. Beach said the only concern he heard during the entire legislative process was that new car seats might cost too much.

"When you talk about cost, what is the cost of one child's life," Beach asked.

If Gov. Chris Christie signs the bill into law it would take effect on the first day of the fourth month following enactment.