This updated post first appeared March 25, 2011, soon after starting this blog, when only my two or three readers at the time saw it.
The New Jersey legislature passed a new law concerning kids and car seats. Revised guidelines took effect September 1, 2015.
The law mandates rear-facing car seats with 5-point harness for children under the age of 2 and weighing 30 pounds or less. Toddlers under 4 years and 40 pounds can be positioned in a forward-facing car seat equipped with 5-point harness. Children under 8 and 57” in height require a booster seat and seat belt. Over 8 years of age and/or a height of 57”, the child can sit in the car secured only with a seat belt.
My question: What happens when senior citizens, and specifically this writer, fall below the 57” threshold?
One of the challenges of senior citizenhood is a diminution in height.
Will seniors need booster seats?
Nothing in the law mentions seniors, or anyone over the age of eight for that matter. But the time may come when so many folks have difficulty peering over the steering wheel or, settled in the back seat, are not seen at all, legislators become concerned seniors face the same dire consequences as unrestrained children should an accident occur.
I am now taller than 57” by a good 5”. OK, barely 5”. 5 feet 2 inches tall. Or short, depending on your perspective. I foresee the time the top of my head barely scrapes the 5-foot marker on my doctor’s scale, and possibly less, meaning 57” is not out of the realm of possibility within the next couple of decades.
Will I eventually need a booster seat? I own one, useful when the grandkids visit. I assumed it would be given away when the kids outgrew it, but maybe I should keep it.
On the other hand the reality is a seat designed for kids, cushioned and wide as it may be, will not be wide enough to comfortably fit my derriere. Seniors shrink in one direction – down, closer to earth – and many (no doubt including me) expand outward in strategic places.
New Jersey is not the only state mandating booster seats for children under a certain height, and guidelines by groups such as the NHSTA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the American Academy of Pediatrics concur. Government groups and geriatric associations, concerned about the welfare of their constituency, may one day investigate the implications of the downsizing of people like me.
Consider the ramifications.
Will police ticket short seniors? The state of Florida may have to be placed under protective custody until this seat thing is figured out. How often driving around the state do you wonder if anyone is behind the wheel of a nearby vehicle?
This may become a national issue.
Will Congress mandate the use of booster seats for seniors in taxis, buses and limousines? Must senior booster seats be inspected and meet certain guidelines?
Will we need to stock extra boosters so friends can drive with us? Or will we carry around our own personal seat, a lightweight, collapsible model in a handsomely designed, monogrammed case?
Catchy slogans for senior drivers and passengers, urging everyone to safely secure boosters, will appear in ads and magazines such as AARP. For example…
Sit Down and You’re Almost Standing Up!
Can you see me now?
How about borrowing the American Express slogan to remind people to take their booster seat wherever they go - Don’t leave home without it!
I look forward to seeing short actors and actresses – Danny DeVito, Jerry Stiller, Linda Hunt, Betty White – in public service ads discussing the importance of buckling boosters while the performers do just that and drive off into the sunset…