Is Your Child Ready for a Seat Belt?

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of accidental death among American children. Many of these injuries and deaths could be avoided if adults would take the time to correctly secure children in safety seats that are properly anchored to the car’s permanent seating. 

Many people may be surprised to learn that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain in a booster seat until they are old enough for an adult seat belt to fit properly, which is usually between the ages of 8 and 12 years old and are 4 feet, 9 inches tall The following types of car restraints should be used as your child grows:

  • Infant Seats—A child should ride in an infant seat, placed in the back seat and facing the rear of the car, from birth until 20 lbs. or one year of age. 
  • Convertible Safety Seats—These seats can convert from rear-facing to forward-facing when a child reaches one year of age or 20 lbs. in weight. Convertible seats should be used in the back seat of a car until a child reaches age four or 40 lbs. in weight.
  • Booster Seats—When a child has clearly outgrown a smaller, convertible seat, but is not yet large enough for the car’s safety belt system, a booster seat should be used in the back seat of a car along with the car’s shoulder and lap belt system.
  • Safety Belts—When a child is at least eight years old and 80 lbs., and large enough to properly “fit” an adult safety belt, he or she can ride without using the booster seat in either the front or back seat of the car. A properly secured safety belt should fit snugly across the thighs, not over the stomach; over the shoulder, not across the neck and throat; and across the chest. A child’s legs should also be able to bend easily over the edge of the vehicle’s seat.

No matter how much an older child may fight a safety seat, it is important to be sure he or she is ready for an adult safety belt before removing other restraints. When using the car’s safety belts, be sure to never tuck the shoulder belt behind a child’s arm or back, and use lap belts only as a last resort when more effective shoulder and lap belts are not available. Using the proper restraints when traveling with your child may help prevent an injury or death in the event of an accident.


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