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A lesson in restraints

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NORTH BEND - When Carolyn Day of North Bend got onto Interstate 90 on May 2 to pick up her daughter in Bellevue, she didn't realize she and her son, John, were going to come very close to being a statistic, if not for the extra time put into properly restraining themselves.

"I have always been a 'Suzy Creamcheese' of defensive driving," Day said. "I never thought it would happen to me."

As Day neared the High Point exit near Issaquah, she found herself behind a pick-up truck that was fast losing its load. Day recalled seeing garbage and other items coming out of the back. Her 4-year-old son strapped in the rear seat made her all the more nervous.

Then a large, black thing flew out of the back of the truck and headed for the windshield of Day's Chevrolet Suburban - she later discovered it was the bed lining of the pick-up truck. Day veered out of the way of the debris, but she overcorrected, causing her truck to hit a concrete barrier on the side of the road. The force of the impact caused the Suburban to roll over the barrier and come to rest upside down.

"I had my arm over my eyes and couldn't see a thing," Day said. "When we settled, my arm was stuck over my face and I couldn't move it."

As Day realized what had happened, she grew frantic. She didn't hear any noise from John in the back of the Suburban and imagined the worst. Then John started to cry and said, "Mom, that was really freaky."

Freaky and lucky. As Day and John were freed from the wreckage, they were continually told by emergency crews how fortunate they were to have survived. Day was wearing her seatbelt, and John was locked into a booster seat.

The accident has spurred Day into action, campaigning for a new state law that goes into effect July 1 requiring children to be harnessed in proper restraints while riding in a vehicle - the first law of its kind in the nation.

The law, called the Anton Skeen Act after a child who died in an automobile roll-over accident outside of Yakima, will require all children up to 6 years old and weighing 60 pounds and under to be restrained in a child seat or booster seat.

Since speaking to parents in the past month about her own accident and the new law, Day said she has been surprised to find out how little people know about booster seats.

"A lot of them sheepishly admit they don't put their child in a booster seat," she said. "They don't like to deal with it."

Day acknowledges that booster seats can be annoying to deal with. Some boaster seats cause the restraint to rub against the child's neck, which in turn causes the child to mess with it or take it off completely.

Another problem that limits their widespread use is not all booster seats on the market are recommended, Day said. Some do not adequately prop children up high enough, while others can actually cause injury if impacted. And not all children's bodies are the same at the same age, so each child must get one that fits his or her particular body.

But Day is convinced they are worth the trouble because they can - and do - save lives. Although parents and children alike may be annoyed by using a booster seat, Day said the rate of survival in an accident rises exponentially when kids are properly restrained, just like using of a seat belt. It's a fact the state knows, according to Day.

"Washington is leading the way on this, and I think it will only be a matter of time before other states start to do the same thing," she said. Car accidents are the No. 1 killer of children between the ages of 4-8.

"I still have nightmares where I think of what-if-I-didn't-do-that-type scenarios," Day said. "If I could get one person to consider putting their kid in a proper seat, this will all be worth it."

* For more information, contact the King County Booster Seat Campaign at www.boosterseat.org or call (206) 521-1568.

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