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Keeping kids safe with car seats

September 16, 2014

 A new study by Safe Kids Worldwide has found an alarming number of parents are allowing kids to use a seat belt alone before they are big enough. It comes as part of National Child Passenger Safety Week.

The report, "Buckle Up: Booster Seats," is funded in part by a $2 million grant from the General Motors Foundation. It is based on a national online survey of 1,000 parents of children ages 4 to 10. The study found seven in ten parents do not know that a child should be at least 57 inches (4’9”) to ride in a car without a booster seat. In practice, nine out of ten parents move a child from a booster seat to a seat belt too soon.

A dangerous mistake

Motor vehicle crashes are the second-leading cause of death for children 4 to 10 years old. In 2012, 340 children this age died in motor vehicle crashes. A third of these children were riding without a restraint that could have potentially saved their lives.

Many children of this age should be riding in booster seats, which have been shown to reduce the risk of serious injury by 45 percent compared to seat belts alone. Booster seats protect children who are too big for a car seat but too small for a seat belt. Seat belts don’t fit children properly until they are at least 57” (4’9”) tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds.

The report also revealed that carpooling can be a particularly risky time for small passengers. One in five parents whose children carpool say they "bend the rules" when driving, letting children ride without seat belts and without the car seat or booster seat they would normally use. And 61 percent of parents say they notice other carpool drivers bending the rules.

Safe Kids research also shows that one in four parents report they don’t buckle up their children on every ride.

Safety reminders and help

  • Buckle up every ride, every time, in the right seat.
  • A child needs to be at least 57” tall (4’9”) and weigh 80-100 pounds to ride with just a seat belt.
  • Check that a car seat is installed properly here.

Safe Kids Western Massachusetts at Baystate Children’s Hospital offers free car seat inspections. During Child Passenger Safety Week, Safe Kids will host more than 500 child seat inspections across the country, offering guidance from certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians on proper installation of child safety and booster seats.