By Jenny Harty –
Many times there is a personal story that inspires a new piece of legislation. My story and the booster seat law that resulted from it helps to save the lives of our youngest citizens. I’m Jenny Harty, certified child passenger safety technician and proud mother of two.
First and foremost, my greatest title is “mama” to my girls Abby and Madison. Probably just like you, my family has had its ups and downs, tragedies and joys, tears and laughter. But all together, these experiences make us who we are, and guide our path in life in ways we could never imagine.
One life changing experience happened for us on July 1, 2002. Our family was headed to a friend’s lake house for the fourth of July. We were traveling on a quiet two lane rural road in South Georgia when a logging truck was crossing over the roadway and ran through a stop sign. There was an SUV coming towards us and it was hit by the logging truck. The SUV lost control and came into our lane and literally shaved off the entire left hand side of our van. We spun around several times and landed in a deep ravine. The logging truck never stopped and was never even caught! Everyone survived, but our five-year old, Madison, was seriously injured. The first responders who arrived on scene didn’t know if doctors would be able to save her arm.
Police officers, paramedics, doctors, nurses, even the tow truck driver couldn’t believe Madison survived. What was consistent in their comments was that her booster seat SAVED HER LIFE!
Madison had to endure 6 surgeries over several years to put her arm back together. Within several months of our crash I learned that in 2002 the child passenger safety law in Georgia was inadequate and weak. It did not require children to ride in a booster seat. So I decided right then, that the law needed to change. The State of Georgia MUST protect its youngest citizens, for they are the ones who cannot protect themselves.
I set off on a new path to make a law. Protecting children while riding in a motor vehicle turned in to my life’s passion and work. We could have lost Madison that day. I was committed to do what I could to protect families from the #1 killer of children: motor vehicle crashes. I worked diligently for two years down at the State Capitol to pass the bill.
“Madison’s Booster Seat Law” was signed and went into effect on July 1, 2004, two years to the day of our crash. At that time the law was strengthened to require children under the age of 6 to ride in a booster seat. We pushed for age 8 but it was negotiated down to age 6. It was still a success, and better than where it was prior to the new law. On July 1, 2011, the 9th anniversary of our crash, the current law went into effect which requires children under the age of 8 to ride in a booster seat.
My goal is to give all passengers the same fighting chance to survive a car crash. Because there are NO MULLIGANS, no second chances, when it comes to a car crash.
The stark reality is that fatalities from car crashes are on the rise in Georgia. In 2016 there were a total of 1564 fatalities, that is more than 4 people dying EVERY SINGLE, DAY. Many of those are blamed on distracted drivers.
My personal passion has turned into a full time dream job with Montlick & Associates. The Georgia injury law firm and I share a deep and ongoing commitment to driver and child passenger safety. Founder and CEO David Montlick believes that sponsoring local programs in the community in which we live and work, can and does save lives. Our hope is that through the firm’s public service efforts more Georgians will arrive home safely and avoid the pain and heartache that comes as a result of an injury or death after a car crash.
In our most recent driver safety initiative, Montlick & Associates has teamed up with Road 2 Safety and EndDD.org. to sponsor a special event on May 12, 2017 at Chukkar Farms in Alpharetta. The event will showcase videos, produced by North Fulton High School students, that send a clear message on the dangers of distracted driving. Montlick & Associates looks forward to celebrating the accomplishments of these exceptional students as we work together to end distracted driving!