Campaign Launched to ‘Boost’ Car Safety for Kids

Safety in the car doesn’t stop once children outgrow their child safety seats. A booster seat for older children is a lifesaver.

Rodney Slater, Secretary of Transportation, says that while Americans try to protect infants when they travel in their cars, this is not possible for children aged 4-8 years. Slater said Monday at a news conference that booster seat use, which is less than 7%, was putting older children at risk. Slater launched a $7.5million national public awareness campaign to promote boosters for children who are too small for safety seats. This campaign coincides with National Child Passenger Safety Week. Slater said, “You must see it to understand,” as he showed how to secure a group young volunteers into boosters. Some of them admitted that they weren’t always riding belted in.

The education campaign, “Don’t skip a step,” encourages parents not to abandon rear-facing seats for infants. Next, they should move to forward-facing models for older children. The Department of Transportation states that most states only require a belt for children under 3 years old. Many parents assume that it is okay to restrain their child in an adult’s seat belt. “We don’t know if it will require a law or no. Slater says that parents will do what is right if they are able to. Although it may seem safe and secure, a child too small to be buckled in a seatbelt could prove fatal.

The lap portion of the safety belt that is attached to child restraint systems can ride up above the abdomen when children are being graduated prematurely to adult safety belts. The child is at risk of seat belt syndrome because the impact of the crash transfers to the soft abdominal and not the bones,” Flaura Winston MD, a pediatrician at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says. Winston states that an adult belt should not be worn over the shoulders of children under 4′ 9″ tall. Many will put the top of the belt behind their heads or remove the safety device entirely in an accident.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause for death among young children. However, 30% of these children ride in no safety restraint. Winston is also concerned about the fact that only half of children who wear belts or seats are properly restrained. Winston is currently conducting a study to determine how many lives boosters might save. According to one national child safety organization, 600 infants are killed each year in car accidents in the United States. Slater believes that the high cost of booster seats, which can range from $20 to $80, is not a reason why they aren’t being used. He says, “We believe it’s more about education than economics. But where it is economics as well we have the type of partnership that will allow us to address that issue.”

Physicians may need to speak with parents about education and how to best protect their children while on the road. Winston states that the American Academy of Pediatrics has always maintained that booster seats are necessary for children of this age.

Important Information

A booster seat can be used to protect children aged 4-8 while riding in cars after they have graduated from child safety seats. The Department of Transportation launched a nationwide public awareness campaign to increase the use of booster seats. Young children cannot use adult seat belts because the lap portion rides up over their abdomen instead of over the bone and the shoulder strap is not properly fitted.

Updated 01/24/22