Many children are eager to leave their booster seats behind and sit in a seat belt like a “big kid.” Many state laws leave children vulnerable, allowing for children as young as 5 to ride this way.
It’s important to remember that seat belts are designed for 165-pound men. They simply aren’t designed to fit kids – and can cause injury or death in the event of a crash if they don’t fit properly. A seat belt will properly fit a child when they reach 4’9” tall, typically between the ages of 8 and 12.
Out-of-position lap belts can cause serious injuries to the liver, spleen or intestines. Additionally, as a child’s upper body jack-knifes over a high-riding lap belt, the spine may pivot and fracture, resulting in paralysis.
Your child is ready to ride with a seat belt after passing the “Five Point Test”
1. Does your child sit all the way back against the seat?
2. Do your child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat without slouching?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can your child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, your child should still ride in a booster seat. If they pass the test, they’re ready for a seat belt.
The lap belt should fit the child low across the hips and thighs, not across the abdomen.
The shoulder belt fits across the collarbone and chest. It should not cut into a child’s abdomen or neck.
Children under age 13 should be properly restrained in the back seat.
Teenagers should wear lap and shoulder belts in every seating position in a motor vehicle.
ALWAYS require safety belt use for all passengers and model good behavior. Make car safety a family habit!