Booster seats make children saferPublished 5:42pm Saturday, September 21, 2013
QUESTION: Are booster seats in my car really necessary for children once they are in elementary school?
RESPONSE: Booster seats are the law in Minnesota for children, after they have outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint, until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall or are age 8. Traffic crashes are the leading killer of Minnesota children and a significant reason is that parents are rushing children into riding in just a seat belt before the children are tall enough. Booster seats are critical to prevent children buckled into seat belts that do not fit properly, which can result in serious and fatal injuries.
Minnesota traffic crash information includes the statistics that in the last five years 10 children between the ages of 4 and 7 have been killed in crashes and only two were properly restrained. Of the 2,121 children injured in traffic crashes during the last five years, less that 50 percent (1,005) were properly restrained in booster seats. Of the 6,170 children in a booster and in a crash during the last five years, 84 percent were not injured. These facts speak for themselves: children are much, much safer riding in cars in booster seats when they are between 4 to 7 years of age. Since a child’s safety is a parent’s primary responsibility, parents are expected to purchase and properly install booster seats in the back seat of their vehicles for their children until their children are 8 years old. (Note: it is safest for children to ride in the back seat until age 13.)
Hopefully, all drivers who ever have children in their cars know that seat belts must fit properly, which is the reason for booster seats. The shoulder strap must be over the shoulder and chest; the lap belt must be over the hips, not the abdomen. Seat belts should never cut across the neck and the shoulder strap should never be placed under an arm or behind the back.
As drivers and passengers we become very comfortable and very casual in our cars. Unfortunately, we forget that it only takes a moment for our car or someone else’s car to become as dangerous as a weapon for anyone of any age. Keeping everyone’s body securely positioned in the car is the needed protection we can provide for every ride.
To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org