Lifesaving booster seats
Booster seats do more than sit children higher in
vehicles-they save lives.
Just as you would give your child a boost to get a drink at
a water fountain, you also need to give them a boost in your car.
Children who are too tall or weigh too much for car seats are
still too small to fit safely in lap and shoulder belts installed
Although Kentucky law does not require children taller than 40
inches be placed in a car seat, the Fayette County SAFE KIDS
Coalition, led by the University of Kentucky Children's Hospital,
strongly recommends parents use booster seats for children between
40 and 80 pounds.
"Shoulder and lap belts found in vehicles can cause
serious injury to children in vehicle accidents," says Jo
Lynn McKee, coordinator of SAFE KIDS and flight nurse with the UK
Air Medical Service.
"Because shoulder belts ride across the neck and lap belts
ride up onto the abdomen, children not in boosters who are
involved in vehicle crashes are at risk for spinal cord and
As long as a child fits into a car seat, he or she should not be
moved to a booster seat. Parents can tell if their child has
outgrown the car seat if the child has reached the upper weight
limit of the seat, the child's shoulders are above the top strap
slots, or the child's ears are above the back of the car seat. A
child moved to a booster seat too soon also can be at risk for
injury if an accident occurs.
Nationally, only 6.1 percent of children between 40 and 60
pounds are restrained in a booster seat; 75.3 percent are buckled
by seat belts alone; and 18.6 percent are not restrained,
according to the U.S. Department of Transportation National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Clearly, parents are not using booster seats,"
McKee says. "Just because state or federal laws do not
require children between 40 and 80 pounds be restrained by a
booster seat, does not mean booster seats aren't the best thing to
do for your child. Seat belts installed in vehicles are not
designed for small children. That's the reason we have booster and
The booster should be a belt-positioning seat that allows
the lap belts to fall low across the upper thighs and the shoulder
belts to fit snug over the center of the shoulder, avoiding the
neck, McKee says.
"Parents also need to be aware that children like to
place the shoulder belts under their arms or behind their
backs," McKee says. "These practices can result in
serious injury to the child if a crash occurs."
Parents can stop using a booster seat when the vehicle's
seat belts fit low on the child's hips and the shoulder belt
crosses the shoulder.
Booster seat info
SAFE KIDS: (606) 323-1153
Kentucky Injury Prevention Research Center: (606) 323-6194