Are Big Kids Being Forgotten When It Comes to Car Safety?

big kids car safety

Beyond car seats big kids need protection too. Welcome to the seat belt positioning device, aka the big kids car safety device.

The most common seat belt positioning device is the booster seat. However, another option to the booster seat is the RideSafer vest. (The RideSafer is often forgotten when talking about children in this “booster” age. But that’s another story.)

better car seatsWhenever we post on social media about big kids car safety and keeping them in a child restraint until they are 4’9″ (typically how tall a child is when they can pass the 5-step seat belt fit test), it tends to go rather viral. One post hit 134,000 people, which for Facebook to show a post from a small company like ours is really good!

Many comments on these posts are from shorter people saying they should still be in a booster seat. (It may be helpful and more comfortable but for safety it’s different for adults mostly because of bone structure.) Other shares and comments were from parents sharing their surprise and questioning their already “graduated” child not being in a booster seat.

Did that many people really not know?

big kids car safety

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A new study by Safe Kids Worldwide and General Motors Foundation surveyed 1,000 parents of 4 to 10-year-olds and uncovered that it may just be that. Those thousands of people who spread our Facebook post, just didn’t know.

The shocking results of the study show 7 in 10 parents don’t know when to move their child from booster seats to just the vehicle seat belt. This puts into perspective the other statistic the study reveals; 9 in 10 parents move their child from booster seats early, before the child is big enough.

There is so much information and car seat education available, how can so many parents not be aware?

Perhaps child restraint laws are part of the cause.

Child restraint laws, after all, are typically the minimum standard.

Several states’ child restraint laws don’t even go up to age 8 and the ones that go to age 8 could be considered inadequate as most 8-year-olds are not tall enough to correctly fit into the vehicle seat belt.

Best practice recommends that children stay in a child restraint until they are 4’9″ tall and pass the 5-step seat belt fit test.

Studies show that using a child restraint, such as a RideSafer vest or a booster seat for big kids, can reduce the risk of serious injury by 45% compared to the seat belt alone.

“Car seats, booster seats and seat belts are engineered to offer more protection than ever,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “But we found there’s a need to remind parents, and anyone who drives a child, about the importance of using a booster seat until a seat belt alone fits safely. Here’s an easy tip: A child needs to be at least 57” tall and between 80 and 100 pounds to ride with just a seat belt.”

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children. For the age range between 4 and 10, 340 children died in 2012 in motor vehicle crashes, a third of which were riding without a child restraint that could have saved their lives.

Perhaps carpooling and seeing what other parents are doing is part of the cause.

As children get older they often have more activities and more friends. This leads to carpooling and driving with more children in the car.

The Safe Kids/GM study also revealed 1 in 5 parents bend the rules when carpooling by either letting children ride without their usual child restraint or letting them ride without even the vehicle seat belt. They are not alone.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said they noticed other carpoolers bending the rules too. That’s a lot of rule bending and playing roulette with our children’s lives.

Is it for speed, to fit more children in the car or some other convenience?

Other research by Safe Kids shows 1 in 4 parents don’t buckle up their children for every ride. How do they choose which rides to not buckle them up for? The speed they are driving? Or the distance? Statistics say 77% of vehicle crashes happen within 15 miles or less from people’s homes.

Quick tips

  1. Did you know, prior to reading this, that it is safer to keep children restrained—in a RideSafer or booster—until they are at least 4’9″ (57″) regardless of age or what the law says? It’s kind of the magic number. If you didn’t know, please share the message because others don’t either.
  2. While knowing the 4’9″ rule is a great start, do you know the five steps children need to pass before they should be allowed to use just the vehicle seat belt? If not, you can by following this link to read about them. You can share that too.
  3. And since we’re on the subject of big kids and keeping them safe in cars, just one quick reminder, the safest place for children is in the back seat. Keep children riding in the back seat until they are 13 years old. Yup, you read that right, thirteen!
We see so many parents letting their children ride without a booster or in the front seat when they aren’t big enough or old enough, what do you think about it? Share your comments below.

By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004

Copyright 2018 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

We originally published this post in September 2014. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

© amie durocher
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