HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are new television ads running in the islands aimed at reversing a troubling trend: Fewer Hawaii drivers are strapping their children into booster seats.
Just 47 percent of Hawaii's kids are secured in booster seats, according to new figures from the University of Hawaii.
It's a dramatic drop-off from Hawaii's 90 percent booster seat use in 2012, and compares to a 97 percent average nationally.
"I think in Hawaii because we go short distances people feel it's not a big deal," said Emmie Kia, a mother of five who won't leave her driveway unless her younger children are in their booster seats.
"I know I'm in the car a lot, so that's kind of a big deal for me. I just think it's not worth the chance," Kia said.
Hawaii law requires that kids from 4 to 8 years old use a booster seat so the seatbelt fits correctly.
"If they're not in a booster seat, the seatbelt touches their neck and their abdomen so we can see a lot of organ injuries, soft tissue damage," Kaiser Permanente Pediatrics nurse Gina Sakai said.
Kia puts it this way: "If you get into an accident, you have no chance."
First Insurance Co. liability claims manager Marie Weite has processed accidents involving toddlers who were not in booster seats.
"Seatbelts are meant for adults," she said. "They're not meant for little children. And if you don't fit in a seatbelt correctly, you can be badly injured."
So far this year, Honolulu police have ticketed 296 drivers for booster seat violations and just as many parents for not having their infant in a car seat.
"That extra 5 to 10 minutes to properly secure your child in those restraints could possibly save your child's life," HPD Traffic Division Capt. Stason Tanaka said.
Drivers who get busted for failing to buckle up their child in a booster seat could be fined up to $500.
Kia thinks cost and convenience are two stumbling blocks for parents who don't use booster seats.
For more information on child safety and booster seat requirements in Hawaii, click here.
Kaiser Permanente offers free clinics on booster seats. To set up an appointment, call 432-2260.
Meanwhile, First Insurance offers monthly free Keiki Car Seat Safety Checks. To sign up, email them.