Seat Belt Safety for Children

Any parent is sure to know how much worry there is when it comes to child safety. Everyday trips, tasks and encounters that present a small risk to adults usually present a much greater risk to small ones, and trips out in the car is certainly no exception.

While most adults are much safer during the use of an in-car seat belt, children can often be at greater risk in the case of an impact, if wearing a seat belt without the use of a booster seat.

Here are some useful tips and things to consider before taking young ones out for a journey in the car.

Assessment

Nearly every new parent is given plenty of information about toddler and child seat safety, whether it’s from the hospital, a pediatrician or a daycare provider. But sometimes the safety of an older child, one who’s too big for a car safety seat is overlooked.

Children of primary or elementary school age can often be at a high level of risk during a car crash as a result of not being properly restrained. Children up to ages 10-12 can benefit from sitting in a booster seat. Most children that outgrow their front-facing safety seat are not yet tall enough to be safely secured by a single 3-point safety belt and have it fit them properly.

There are two main problems with being too small for a seat and restraint designed for an adult:

1-  The torso portion of the belt settles too high on the body, crossing the neck and presenting a danger of damage to the throat and windpipe in the even of a collision.

2-  The pelvis of the child slides forward as the legs hang over the seat without touching the floor of the car for extra support. This causes the torso portion of the belt to further ride up into the neck, and the lap portion of the belt to ride up into the top of the pelvis, leading to what is known as the ‘submarine effect’.

The ideal place for the seat belt to rest is on the ‘strong bones’; at the tops of the thighs and across the chest, instead of tender areas such as the stomach.

Knowing When to Make the Change

So, when do you know when to have your child use a booster seat, and when they it acceptable to let the child ride using just a seat belt?

Well, there are five questions you need to ask yourself to determine this:

1- Can the child sit all the way back against the seat?

2- Do the child’s knees bend comfortably over the edge of the seat?

3- Does the shoulder belt cross beneath the child’s neck, over the chest and under the arm at the lower half of the shoulder belt?

4- Is the lap part of the belt resting as low as possible, touching the child’s thighs?

5- And finally, will the child be able to stay seated like this for the duration of the trip?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then your child is ready to wear the lap-shoulder belt correctly and in a safe manner. If you answered no to just one of these questions, the child needs to continue using a booster seat until all of these points can be checked.

So there we have a quick and simple checklist to keeping your child safe when wearing a seat belt. Remember, if your child has outgrown a forward facing child restraint they still need to use a booster seat until they have grown enough to ride without one.

Happy holidays, and drive safe!

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