We all know by now that the use of passenger restraints in vehicles saves lives. To this, there is absolutely no doubt. However, when it comes to our kids, the proper use of devices is crucial in the prevention of severe injury or death. Valley Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Central California have conducted hundreds of car seat, booster seat, and seat belt use, safety checks for families to find a misuse rate consistently in the 98th percentile. That is only 2 out of every 100 child passengers checked are restrained in a device correctly. When transporting our young athletes, it’s very important that they too be seated correctly. For the purposes of this article I’ll focus on the school aged child. Once they’ve graduated out of a 5-point harness car seat (specific to the weight maximum as detailed by the manufacturer), all kids under 4 foot 9 inches tall, should be in a booster seat. Adult use seat belts are created for a person with a height that’s minimally 4’9”. Once a child exceeds this height limit, they can safely transition to the use of the seat belt alone. The reason is that in a collision, if a child under 4’9” is in an adult seat belt, there is potential for significant neck, abdominal, and lumbar back injuries due to the misplaced positioning of the restraints. With the proper use of a booster seat, the child’s body is raised into a position whereby the seat belt fits correctly. In addition to the height of the child, a simple 5-point fit test should be conducted to assure the child is tall enough for the seat belt.
1. Shoulder belt crosses mid-collar bone (clavicle)
2. Lower back remains against the seat
3. Lap belt crosses at the hips or thighs (not across the abdomen)
4. Knees bend at the edge of the seat or beyond
5. Child remains in this position through the entire trip
Remember, not only does this apply to our family, but it also applies to our teams as well. For more information on Child Passenger Safety, please visit www.safekids.org and as always, play hard play safe!