One study showed that children ages 2–5 who are moved to safety belts too early are four times more likely to sustain a serious head injury than those restrained in booster seats. In a traffic crash, the shoulder strap of an adult safety belt will hit a child shorter than 4’9”across the neck or face rather than the chest and there is also a greater risk of internal injury because an adult lap belt hits across the child’s stomach rather then his/her lap. These children need a booster seat — which raises them up so that adult safety belts fit over their chests and hips properly — and protects them in the event of a crash.
As children grow, how they sit in your car, truck, van or SUV should also change. For maximum child passenger safety, parents and caregivers simply need to remember and follow the 4 Steps for Kids:
- Use rear-facing infant seats in the back seat from birth to at least one year of age and at least 20 pounds;
- Use forward-facing toddler seats in the back seat from age one and 20 pounds to about age four and 40 pounds;
- Use booster seats in the back seat from about age four to at least age eight – unless the child is 4 ft. 9 inches or taller and
- Use safety belts in the back seat at age eight or older or taller than 4 ft. 9 inches. All children age 12 or younger should ride in the back seat.