LOUISVILLE, KY. (July 1, 2009): Last year, Kentucky legislators signed into law legislation requiring children younger than age 7 and between 40 and 50 inches tall to use a booster seat to protect them as they are old enough to stop using a car safety seat but not quite big enough to fit safely in a standard seat belt designed for adults. Since the law passed last year, officers have been giving warnings to parents who didn't comply. Beginning today, through an effort called "Boost 'em or busted" they can issue citations.
Seat belts and even the seat of a car are made for adults, not children, according to Sharon Rengers, R.N., Children's Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Kosair Children's Hospital. This causes the seat belt to fit incorrectly.
"Because the seat belt doesn't fit correctly, many times you see children who put the shoulder portion of the seat belt behind their back or under their arm for comfort," Rengers said. "This removes all upper body protection for the child."
"When children are too small for a seat belt alone, you also see them slouch down, causing the lap belt to be across their stomach rather than their hip bones. In the event of a crash, both situations could cause internal injuries or worse yet, the child could be ejected from the car."
According to Rengers, a booster seat can reduce injuries from incorrectly fitting lap-shoulder belts by adding the extra height a child needs to properly fit the restraints.
"Even though the new booster seat bill notes booster seat usage for children under the age of 7, all children less than 4 feet 9 inches tall should ride in a booster seat to be correctly protected by a vehicle's safety belt," Rengers said.
Tips to know if your child needs a booster seat
A simple exercise can help determine if a child should be riding in a booster seat. Have the child sit in the back seat of a vehicle. While sitting with his or her back against the seat:
- The child's knees should bend at the edge of the seat.
- The lap belt should lie across his or her hip bones.
- The shoulder belt should come across the middle of his or her shoulder.
If the child is slouching or scooting forward in the seat to make his or her knees bend over the edge or if the lap and/or shoulder belt are not positioned correctly, a booster seat may help the child better fit in the vehicle seat that has been designed for an adult.