Last month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the Child Restraint Systems bill, which raises the age requirements for when a child must ride in a booster seat.
Beginning August 20th, 2012, children between the ages of five and eight will need to use a booster seat if they are shorter than four feet nine inches.
Before Brewer signed the measure, Arizona remained one of three states without a booster seat law. Local safety experts have encouraged booster seat use until they reach the height of 4 feet 9 inches tall, says Angelica Baker, a child passenger safety coordinator at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
“We know that booster seats do best protect children and when laws change people, begin to change their practices,” says Baker. “Many states have changed their booster seat laws and have seen an increase in booster seat use by doing so.”
Multiple studies prove that injury rates go down as booster seat use rises. In the state of New York, a 72% increase in the use of booster seats resulted in an 18% reduction in traffic injury rates according to research published in 2010 in the journal Pediatrics.
But how do you coax a child who had already “graduated” to using an adult seat belt before the law to comply and go back to using a booster seat?
Tracey Fejt, RN, Injury Prevention/Outreach Manager at Cardon Children’s Medical Center, regularly visits classrooms in the Valley to teach kids about safety. “When I go in to the schools, I let the kids know that cars were not made for them, they were made for adults.”
Fejt compares it to different sizes of seats used in classrooms; if kids were made to sit in a large adult chair all day they’d be uncomfortable. “They sit in chairs made for their size. That is what a booster does in the car — it boosts them up and makes the seat belt fit properly.”
Many children take the shoulder part of the seat belt and place it under their arm or behind their back, says Fejt. In a crash, that can cause abdominal or spinal cord injuries, or what health professionals call Seat Belt Syndrome.
“When I talk to kids about that, I let them know they have organs in their body that are like balloons. If they get squeezed by the seatbelt, they can pop. This is one of the reasons, says Fejt, that as of 2006, cars manufacturers stopped using lap-only belts.
Tell kids that seat belts are designed to work with the hard bones in their laps and their shoulders — thus the name lap and shoulder belt –not their soft abdomen, adds Fejt.
Backless boosters are a great way to get kids in booster seats, because they don’t look like the larger seats meant for babies and toddlers, she adds. Some even have cup holders. They keep a shoulder belt from rubbing against a child’s neck, and keeps lap belts on their lap, not on the abdomen.
Parents who car pool need to keep in mind that since children younger than 8 years old will have to use a booster seat every time they ride in a vehicle, so car pool drivers may have to keep an extra booster seat in the trunk.
Baker, of PCH, lists these tips for helping a reluctant child to make using a booster seat a habit:
- Allow your child to pick his or her own booster seat
- Remind your child that with a booster seat, they will be able to see out of the window much better
- Let your child decorate the booster seat with markers and stickers
- Have a booster seat party and invite your child’s friends for a day of booster seat decorating and games. If everyone leaves using a booster seat then using it isn’t as humiliating.
- Explain to your child that the new rule about booster seats is a law, says Baker, and is designed to keep kids safe and well-protected in case of a crash. Point out that since it is a law, all of his/her friends should be using a booster seat, too. Baker suggests using an activity book to teach a child more about why booster seats are important.
Read the law itself here.
Is your child’s safety seat installed correctly? Tracey Fejt, RN, of Cardon Children’s, talks about what parents tend to miss.