We take time when we purchase our children’s shoes and clothes to make sure they fit correctly. We would never dress them in adult clothing. But do we take the same amount of time checking to make sure that the life saving system in our car (the seat belt) fits them correctly? We should — because it could save your child’s life.
Making the decision to put your child into the seat belt is a huge decision and you want to make sure that it fits before you use it without a booster seat. Seat belts are designed to provide protection and safety to adults. That’s why, to be safe, children should stay in their booster seat until the seat belt fits them correctly.
Is my child ready?
The decision point for transitioning your child out of a booster seat and into a seat belt usually comes when the child is between 8 to 12 years old. Keep your children in booster seats until they outgrow the size limits of the booster seats or are big enough to fit properly in seat belts.
For a child to properly fit a seat belt, your child must be tall enough to sit on the vehicle seat without slouching for the entire ride. This means that they must be able to keep their back against the vehicle seat and keep their knees naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat.
When checking for fit of the seat belt, always make sure:
- The lap belt should fit snugly across the upper thighs, not across the stomach.
- The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest. It should not cross the neck or face.
- Never let your child put the shoulder belt under their arm or behind their back because it could cause severe injuries in a crash.
- Keep your child in the back seat until they are 13.
Always check belt fit on the child in every vehicle. A booster seat may be needed in some vehicles and not in others. If the seat belt does not fit properly the child should continue to use a booster seat.
Teaching your child about safety
The transition to a seat belt gives you another opportunity to teach your child about safety. The message is simple: Even though your child might be the right size to fit a seat belt, the safest place to ride in the car is still in the back seat — buckled up.
As a parent, you influence your kids by modeling safe driving practices, including buckling up every time you get in the car. Teach your family that safety is the responsibility of all passengers as well as the driver.
For more information on how to keep you children safe at home, outdoors, and on the go, please visit KohlsSafeandHealthy.com.
- Jane Howard, car seat educator, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Kohl’s Cares Grow Safe & Healthy is an injury prevention program from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Kohl’s Cares to help teach kids and families how to stay safe at home, outdoors, and on the go.