Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14, due in large part to the non-use or improper use of child safety seats and seat belts. It is important that all children are properly secured in the appropriate car seat, booster seat or seat belt, which offers the best protection for children in the event of a crash.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have child restraint laws. Child restraint laws require children to travel in approved child restraint devices, and some permit or require older children to use adult safety belts.
Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has found them to reduce fatal injury by 72 percent for infants younger than 1 year of age and by 54 percent for toddlers ages 1-4. Children ages 2-6 years old in child safety seats (including child restraints and belt positioning booster seats) are approximately 28 percent less likely to receive a fatal injury than those using safety belts alone.
Parents are reminded to keep their toddlers in a rear-facing car seat until age 2 or until they reach the maximum height and/or weight for their car seat. This information was recently published in an updated policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Additionally, research in a 2007 study published in the journal Injury Prevention showed that children under 2 years old are 75 less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing.
You can reference the laws in Florida: 2016 FL Statutes-Child Restraint law
Best practice found in NHTSA’s National Child Passenger Safety Certification Training Program recommends booster seat use for children who have outgrown child restraints with harnesses prior to moving into a seat belt alone.
Children seated in a booster seat in the rear of the car are 45 percent less likely to be injured in a crash as compared to those using a seat belt alone.
4 – 7 Years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
8 – 12 Years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
A reference to review is at SaferCar.gov.
Use the Safe Kids safety belt fit test to determine when a child is big enough to use the adult seat belt in a vehicle.
Have your child sit in a back seat with her bottom and back against the vehicle’s seat back. Do the child’s knees bend at the seat’s edge? If yes, go on. If not, the child must stay in a booster seat. If yes, go on. If it rests on the soft part of the stomach, the child must stay in a booster seat.
- Buckle the seat belt. Does the lap belt stay low on the hips or high on the thigh? If yes, go on. If it rests on the soft part of the stomach, the child must stay in a booster seat.
- Look at the shoulder belt. Does it lie on the collarbone and shoulder? If yes, go on. If it is on the face or neck, the child must remain in a booster seat. Never put the shoulder belt under the child’s arm or behind the child’s back. Do not allow children to play with the shoulder portion of a seat belt. Treat it like any cord.
- Can the child maintain the correct seating position with the shoulder belt on the shoulder and the lap belt low
across the hips, or high on the thighs? If yes, the child has passed the Safety Belt Fit Test. If no, the child should return to a booster seat and re-test in a month.
- Seat belts generally fit a child when they are at least 4’9” tall (57 inches) between the ages of 8-12 and who weigh between 80-100 pounds. Have all children pass the Safety Belt Fit Test before moving them from a booster seat into the adult seat belt.
- As children get older, their seat belt use rates tend to decline.
- Safe Kids Southwest Florida reminds the public that all passengers are required to wear seat belts on every trip, ensuring that everyone who rides in the car is buckled up and that all children 12 and younger ride in a back seat in a properly installed child restraint appropriate for the child’s age and size.
Did you know?
One in every four car seats is installed incorrectly?
Installing a car seat can certainly try a parent’s patience. Safe Kids Southwest Florida hosts car seat safety inspections throughout Southwest Florida where parents receive one-on-one personalized instruction on how to properly install and use their children’s car seats.
Car and booster safety checks are performed by Nationally Certified Passenger Safety Technicians. Contact us for a list of inspection locations and contact information and to learn more about what you can expect during a car seat inspection and what you need to bring.
For more information, call 239-343-6199 or e-mail Sally@SafeKidsSWFLorg.