Car and Booster Seat Safety
Just buckling up isn't enough to keep your infants and
children safe on the road.
Use of a car or booster seat reduces the risks of automobile
related death and injury for infants and children by almost 70 percent. So, why
are motor vehicle collisions still the leading cause of death and injury for
infants and children? [TO THE CONTRARY, THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA
HAS SHOWN THAT EVEN WHEN MISUSED, CAR SEATS DO A GREAT JOB OF PROTECTING
CHILDREN] Because not all parents are using car seats with children, despite
laws in all 50 states mandating their use. For example only 6% of children
between age 4 and 8 use booster seats in the car. Riding in an automobile is
the most dangerous part of your child's life, so protect your little ones (and
big kids too!) by making sure you use a correctly installed potentially life-saving seat.
If you thought graduating from kindergarten meant no more
car seat-Think again. Child safety experts recommend that four- to
eight-year-olds be restrained with vehicle belt in a booster seat while in the car. Luckily, some
of the new big kid boosters come with cool cup holders! California
law currently requires that children be secured in an appropriate child
passenger restraint (safety seat or booster seat) until they are at least 8
years old or 4'9" tall. But we know that many children over six
aren't big enough for adult seat belts. Serious injuries can result from a lap
belt that rests across a child's abdomen or a shoulder strap that crosses his
neck. Booster seats help position an adult vehicle seat belt so it properly fits over
your child's lap and across her collarbone. This may seem like a hassle when it
is your turn for carpool, but the safety benefits more than make-up for the
Putting a child's car seat in your car isn't enough-it must
be installed correctly. If you thought that installing your child's car seat
was harder than programming your VCR, you're not alone. Some car seats fit
better in certain cars, so try out the car seat soon after you buy it (if not
before) to make sure it's a good fit. Buy a car seat thta fits your child, your vehicle, and one you will use correctly everytime. If you have questions, call the
manufacturer's toll free number or visit their website. It may take longer than
you like, but your child is worth the extra few minutes to make sure her car
seat is installed correctly.
Car manufacturers have also gotten on board. Since September
2002 all new vehicles are required to have LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for
Children). It's an easier car seat attachment system. If you need help, many
police departments and fire stations will check your car or booster seat to
make sure it's installed properly.
The most dangerous activity your child does is ride in an
automobile. Car and booster seats dramatically reduce your child's risk of
injury or death in the unfortunate case of an accident. So please buckle her up
in a properly installed car seat or belt-positioning booster seat.
So how do you know if your child's seat is safe?
- Make sure you use the correct seating position (see table
below) and vehicle seat belt. Door mounted or automatic seat belts (move when
the door is opened) can NOT be used. You MUST use rear, middle seat if available. Lap belts that only lock during a sudden stop or crash can NOT be
- NEVER use a locking clip with
a belt-positioning booster seat.
- Seat belt must be routed as described in the car seat
- Vehicle seat belt should be tight enough so that your
child's car seat can NOT be pulled more than one inch forward or to
- Make sure to thread the child restraint harness
correctly--read your manual. For rear-facing position, shoulder harness must
come through back of seat at or below child's shoulders. For forward-facing
position, harness must come through back of seat at or above shoulder level.
Harness straps should lie flat across child's body. Straps are made wide to
absorb force in a crash. Twists, turns or wrinkles may cause injury in an
- Make sure harness is tight! You should not be able to pinch the harness webbing together at the shoulder harness and your child's collarbone.
- Chest clip should be positioned at armpit level.