Your 8-year-old wants to ride “shot gun” now that he’s a big kid, but wait a minute. A study from the University of Michigan says that plenty of kids ages 4 – 9 are improperly buckled. And a recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that more than half of carpooling parents do not always use booster seats when transporting children who usually use one.
Booster seats are designed to place a child higher in the car so that a lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, says Susan Laurence, Injury Prevention Coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. This is critical because of the nature of injuries children can suffer if their belt doesn’t fit properly. “Booster seat use has come a long way, but we still have a long, long way to go. I think some parents who have never been in a car crash don’t realize the consequences to kids who aren’t in a booster seat,” says Laurence, pointing out that without a booster seat, lap belts can ride up and over a child’s tummy, rather than fitting properly over the legs and hips. In a crash, children might wrap over the belt and hit their heads on the seat in front of them, or risk spinal cord injury.
Ohio booster seat law requires that once children have outgrown their child safety seats (usually around age 4 or 40 pounds), they use seat-belt positioning booster seats until age 8 or unless they reach 57 inches tall first. The best practice would be to use a booster seat until age 10, says Laurence, and recommends using guidelines listed below.
Kentucky law dictates that any child less than 40 inches tall must be in a child or infant seat, while children younger than 7 years old and between 40 and 50 inches tall must ride in a booster seat.
“According to the AAP and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), all children should ride in the back seat until 13 years old,” says Laurence. “Actually, we would all be safer if we could sit in the back seat properly restrained but it would make it a little difficult to drive!”
Laurence advises parents ask themselves the following questions. If the answer is “NO” to any of them, your child should still be in a booster seat to ride safely in the car.
1. Can the child sit with his back all the way back against the vehicle seat?
2. Does the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
3. Does the lap belt fit snugly across the hips or upper thighs (not up on the abdomen)?
4. Is the shoulder belt across the center of the child’s shoulder and chest?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the entire trip?
For children who resist using a booster seat, Laurence suggests pointing out to your child how much more he will be able to see out the window when he‘s seated higher. And when faced with the prospect of carpooling children without a booster seat, Laurence advises parents to either refuse to transport the child, or pick up a couple of spare booster seats to keep in your car. You can find a quality booster seat for as little as $15 — both the AAP (aap.org) and the NHTSA (nhtsa.gov) offer guidelines on buying child safety and booster seats.
It’s the Law
Ohio booster seat law requires that once children have outgrown their child safety seats (around age 4 or 40 pounds), they use seat-belt positioning booster seats until age 8 or 57 inches tall first. Kentucky law stipulates children under 7 and between 40 – 50 inches must use a booster.