Minnesota takes justifiable pride in being family-friendly, often on the right side of rankings in education, health care, public safety, cultural attractions and outdoor recreation. This has often resulted in recognition like Best Life magazine's recent designation that the Twin Cities is the third-best place in the country to raise kids.

But Minnesota is on another list that may matter more: It's one of six states that do not have a supplemental child passenger restraint -- or booster seat -- law. Considering the embrace of kids on so many other levels, legislating that they're buckled up in the safest way possible should be an immediate priority, and the Legislature should pass and Gov. Tim Pawlenty should sign the Child Passenger Restraint Law now working its way through the Capitol.

The safety benefit statistics are startling. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children. Still, 70 percent of children ages 4 through 8 are riding either completely unbelted or in an improperly fitted booster seat, according to research from Wirthlin Worldwide. Minnesota kids using a lap and shoulder belt -- but not a booster seat -- are two-and-a-half times more likely to be injured than those using a booster seat, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Tragedy can be avoided, however. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says booster-seat use reduces the risk of injury by 59 percent in a crash.

The proposed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, makes reasonable exceptions for school buses, taxis, police and emergency medical vehicles. But it's not reasonable to not protect Minnesota kids, especially when almost every other state has moved to do so. And apparently most Minnesotans concur: A 2005 University of Minnesota study determined that 70 percent agree on the need for a booster-seat law.

Today only 30 percent of Minnesota kids 4 to 8 use a booster seat, according to the state Department of Public Safety. This isn't as much a reflection of uncaring parents as it is a predictable outcome given current law.

Passing a new law wouldn't cost the budget-challenged state any money. In fact, Minnesota would stand to gain $140,000 in federal funds as an incentive. Some of this money could be used to help lower-income families buy booster seats. Already the cost is usually less than $20, a bargain in light of how much Minnesota parents already shell out for hockey helmets, soccer shin guards and other safety equipment required by most youth sports.

Opposition to the legislation is hard to find, but Minnesota has a long libertarian streak that often opposes added safety legislation. Leave that divisive debate to motorcycle helmet laws and other safety decisions that generally only affect adults. The safety of kids 4 to 8 shouldn't be subject to an abstract "nanny state" debate.

After all, isn't it the role of government -- and society -- to "nanny" our kids against avoidable, tragic injury? Minnesota should join the other 44 states that have taken that step with booster-seat laws.