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Health Department Educates About Booster Seats

February 5, 2013

Sarah Hansen

During Child Passenger Safety Month in February, North Dakota elementary school children and their parents will be receiving life-saving information about child passenger safety best practices through their local law enforcement and public health agencies. The students will also be receiving information about the “Ready? Safe? Go!” campaign. This campaign teaches children to ask themselves if they are traveling in the safest way possible – buckled up correctly in the back seat.

Sarah Hansen, a registered nurse and child passenger safety technician with the City-County Health District, said Monday booster seats are designed for children aged from 4 to 8, and weighing 40 pounds minimum. Youngster should be in booster seats until they reach 4 feet, 9 inches, or until a regular seatbelt “fits correctly on the child’s body,” Hansen said.

Booster seats can be used children weighing up to between 80 and 120 pounds, Hansen said.

Hansen shared a five-step seatbelt fit test she said will help parents decide if a booster seat should continue being used.

1.) Children should sit all the way back against the vehicle seat.

2.) Does a child’s knees bend properly at the end of the seat?

3.) Is the lap belt on the top part of the thigh?

4.) Is the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder and chest of the child?

5.) Can the child stay seated for the whole length of the trip?

Hansen also provided tips for using booster seats.

Booster seats should always be used in conjunction with both a lap belt and a shoulder belt, meaning booster seats should not be placed in the middle of a rear seat with no shoulder belt available. Hansen also said the shoulder belt should also cross the shoulder of the child when buckled.

Detailed information on various booster seats is available from City/County Health in the Barnes County Courthouse building.

Hansen said if the answer to any of the questions is no, the child would be safer in a booster seat than in a regular car seat.

“One thing that we want to emphasize is the length of time a child needs to ride in a booster seat,” said Dawn Mayer with the North Dakota Department of Health’s Child Passenger Safety Program. “We see a lot of children prematurely using seat belts. We often get questions from parents about the use of booster seats and when to transition between car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Because of that, we’ve put together these top 10 tips for boosters.”

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, booster seats should be used because they reduce the injury risk to children by 59 percent compared to seat belts alone.

A booster is not a car seat. A booster seat raises and positions a child so the lap and shoulder belt fit correctly. A booster keeps the lap belt from causing injury to the child’s abdomen and keeps the shoulder belt in place to give the child upper body protection. In the event of a crash, an adult seat belt that does not fit a child properly can actually cause injury rather than prevent it because it doesn’t fit over the strong parts of the child’s body.

A high back booster seat is a belt positioning device that offers head protection to a child if the vehicle does not offer it (a head restraint). A high back also offers shoulder belt positioning options and even sometimes offers more side-impact head protection.

A backless booster is a seat belt positioning device without a back. It is most commonly used in vehicles that already have head restraints built into the vehicle seat. Some backless boosters also offer shoulder positioning options as well.

When a child has outgrown his or her car seat with a harness system, you can start using a booster seat.

Kids are usually tall enough to come out of a booster between the ages of 8 to 12 years.

Boosters are relatively inexpensive and cost as low as $10 to $100 or more.

There are many boosters to choose from on the market. The best booster to buy is the one that fits a parent’s child and their car, and is used correctly on every trip.

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