Moving your child to a seatbelt… what’s the rush?

As a car seat technician, I meet many parents who are eager to move their child to the next stage. “When can I turn my child forward-facing?” “When can my child go into a booster seat?” “When can my child use a seat belt only?” As a parent myself, I get it that parents like to plan ahead, but it only takes a reminder that the car seats for each stage are made to best protect children according to their body size and strength to get the head nod that they understand. But do we really understand?

You may be surprised to know that in Ontario, where booster seats have been law since 2005, only 34% of children 5-9 years old are using a car seat or booster seat. Because of this, many experts believe that children aged 5-9 years old are now the most vulnerable people riding in a car!

If you think that this is not an issue in Halton Region, think again. In a recent enforcement blitz at an elementary school in Milton, a police officer I work with saw a number of kids not using boosters or even seatbelts. One child said he couldn’t use his seatbelt because the backpack he was wearing was in the way… another child said her backpack must have undone her seatbelt. Crazy, but true.

Why do children need car seats or boosters?

Seat belts are designed to fit adults. Adult males, to be precise! If the shoulder belt rides across a child’s neck, or if the lap belt is across a child’s stomach, he or she can be seriously injured in a sudden stop or collision. These injuries are usually called ‘seatbelt syndrome’. Car seats and booster seats that are installed correctly significantly reduce the risk of these injuries.

The Law

Recommendations

  • It is safer for a child to remain in a harnessed car seat for as long as possible.
  • Booster seats must be used from at least 40 lb. until the child is 80 lb., 4 ft. 9 in. tall, or age 8.
  • Booster seats should be used until the car’s seat belt fits the child properly (see below).

Did you know that many new models of car seats can be used with a 5-point harness system up to 30 kg (65 lb)?  I kept my son in his 65 lb car seat until he was over 7 years old.  He questioned me once about why his friends were not still in car seats too… I told him his seat was safer and I wanted him to be as safe as possible. He never questioned it again.

When is your child ready for a seatbelt alone?

Take the ‘One Minute Seat Belt Safety Check

To fit a lap/shoulder belt properly most children need:

  • to have a sitting height of 74cm (29 in.) or to be at least 1.45m (4 ft. 9 in.) tall.
  • to be able to bend their knees comfortably over the vehicle seat, otherwise they will slouch causing the lap belt to ride up of the stomach
  • to be at least age 9 or 10, when their hip bones are fully developed and can hold the lap belt in place low over the upper thighs.

The reality is car seats save lives… by as much as 74%. Booster seats provide 60% more protection than a seatbelt alone.  So what is the rush??

About this guest blogger:

Julie Fluit is a public health nurse with over 11 years of experience and expertise in the area of child passenger safety. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from McMaster University. She is a certified car seat technician and instructor, and is the current chair of the Halton Partners for Car Seat Safety. Julie enjoys raising her two young children in the same community where she lives and works to promote health and safety.

Share your experience:

For more tips and hints about your child’s car seat or booster seat, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
This entry was posted in Babies, Car Seat Safety, Physical Health, Preschool, School-aged Children, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Moving your child to a seatbelt… what’s the rush?

  1. Pingback: Special Post: Moving your child to a seatbelt… what’s the rush? | GirlGuidesCANBlog

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