Mark Roman | August 30, 2022 | Car Accidents
If you have small children, one fun rite of passage for traveling is graduating from a car seat to a booster seat and finally to an adult seat belt. Giving up the car seat for good is an exciting time for children since it means they “aren’t babies anymore.”
But for parents, it’s more important to ensure that your child is safe than to prematurely allow them to take that step toward becoming a bigger kid.
Here is some important information from the National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about what guidelines to follow when it comes to child safety restraints in the car.
When Is My Child Ready to Wear an Adult Seat Belt?
The time to transition a child from their booster car seat into an adult seat belt is from about age 8 to age 12, depending on the size of the child. Keep your child in their booster seat until they exceed the size recommendations for the booster seat.
If you aren’t sure whether to keep your child in a booster seat, consider these questions:
- Can your child keep their back against the seat of the car when sitting upright?
- Can your child keep their knees at a natural bend over the edge of the seat?
- Is your child able to keep their feet flat on the floor when seated?
- Does the lap belt rest comfortably across the hips and tops of the thighs instead of across the stomach?
- Is the shoulder belt comfortable across the shoulder and chest, not the neck?
If your child cannot comfortably fit in an adult belt — if the answer to any of these questions is no — they still need to sit in a booster seat.
Even if your child fits fine in an adult seat belt in your primary vehicle, they may not fit right in every vehicle. Make sure to check the seat belt fit in every vehicle — some larger trucks and SUVs may have larger seats, and your child may still need a booster seat in those vehicles.
Modeling Good Seat Belt Behavior
You, as the parent, are the primary role model for your child in everything. This extends to seat belt safety in the car, too. Tweens and teens may try to avoid wearing seat belts, and if they see you not wearing yours correctly, they will imitate you.
Seat belt safety involves everyone in the car, not just a smaller child or the driver. All passengers should correctly wear their belts. In fact, you may want to implement a rule that you don’t start the car until everyone is securely buckled to avoid harm in the event of a car accident.
All children under 13 should ride in the back seat every time for safety, even if they’re large enough to wear an adult seat belt.
Remember these three tips for tween and teen seat belt safety:
- It’s non-negotiable — belts on all the time, for everyone
- Even if you’re in a rush or it’s a short drive, you still need a belt
- Never assume your children are buckled up — always check both visually and verbally
Also, ensure that the seat belts are worn properly, with the shoulder strap across the chest and not tucked behind the back.
Seat Belts Save Lives
Car accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. If you or your children aren’t buckled, you stand a much higher chance of being hurt if you’re involved in a collision.
In fact, according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC), car accidents are a leading cause of death for children. Furthermore, of the children killed in a car collision in 2019, nearly 40% weren’t wearing their seat belts. The outcome of those accidents might have been different if the children had been buckled up.
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