Will your child be riding safely?
09-28-2009 (Dayton, OH) -
Ohio's new booster seat law goes into effect October 7, 2009. Ohio will join 47 other states that already have legislation protecting children older than four in vehicles. Ohio's new booster seat law requires federally approved booster seats for children ages 4 to 8-years-old and who are less than 4 feet, 9 inches in height.
"Children, 4 to 8-years-old, are too small to be protected adequately by the car's seat belt system, which is designed for an adult," Thomas Krzmarzick, MD, medical director of the Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. "Booster seats are designed to simply lift the child up so the child fits in a vehicle seat belt system more like an adult."
In a recent six-year-period in Ohio, from 2002 through 2007, motor vehicle crashes killed 89 children ages 4 to 8-years-old and injured more than 21,000 (21,327) in the same age group, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
"If the seat belt doesn't fit a child, he or she tends to move away from the vehicle seatback creating space behind the child which may allow for the child to be ejected," says Krzmarzick. "Some children may also tuck the shoulder belt behind their back leaving no upper body protection which could result in severe injury to the abdomen, neck and head."
"In addition, without a booster seat, an adult seat belt can actually cause injury in the event of a crash rather than preventing it," says Krzmarzick. "For instance, if the lap belt rests on your child's stomach, which typically happens without a booster seat, your child could suffer liver, spleen, or spinal cord damage in a crash."
Boosters are designed to keep the lap belt low across the child's hips, and many have a shoulder harness guide to keep the shoulder belt on the center of the child's shoulder.
"A seat belt should rest on the harder parts of the skeleton - the hip and the shoulder - to spread the crash force to those areas instead of soft tissue like the abdomen," says Krzmarzick.
What many parents don't know is that once a child outgrows a car seat, the next step for safety isn't the adult seat belt—it's a booster seat. Once children outgrow their front-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they at 4'9" tall).
Choosing the right kind of booster seat:Booster seats come in many types and styles. Check the label for the weight limits and always follow the manufacturer's guidelines.
- Combination child seat/booster seat: This seat converts from a five-point harness system to a belt-positioning booster seat. Check instruction manual or the car seat label for exact weight and height limits.
- No-back booster: Must be used with a lap/shoulder-style seat belt. It is best if your car's seat back or headrests come above your child's ears when he or she is sitting in the booster seat. This model is easy to pack up and move from car to car.
- High-back booster: Must be used with a lap/shoulder style seat belt. A high-back booster protects against whiplash in cars with low seat backs. It can be used in cars with or without headrests. The high back also supports a sleeping child. A high-back booster may also have seat belt guides to help position the seat belt.
"When it comes to the safety of a child, there is no room for mistakes," says Dr. Krzmarzick.
Developing good habits:Dr. Krzmarzick suggests working with your child to develop safe habits when riding in your vehicle.
- Use a booster seat correctly in a back seat every time your child rides in a car.
- A booster seat uses no harness. It uses the vehicle's lap and shoulder belts only. Be sure the safety belt is properly buckled.
- Booster seats are not installed tightly. They sit on the vehicle seat; the child buckles the lap and shoulder belt and wears the safety belt like you do. Never use only the lap belt.
- Use the vehicle's lap and shoulder belts on every booster seat. Never place the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back.
- Be sure all occupants wear safety belts correctly every time. Children learn from adult role models.
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