Tweens and seat belt safety
Your kids aren’t little kids any more but they aren’t teenager yet either. They are in between. They want to be treated like big kids but aren’t ready for the responsibility we place on teens. And tweens still need to be safe in the car.
Typically tweens are between the ages of 10 and 12. Though some extend that out on both sides to say between 9 and 14. For car safety tweens is kind of between seat belt positioners and driving so it can range from age 9 or 10 to 15.
How big of a danger is it?
Here are some statistics for this period of tweens and seat belt safety:
- 48.3% of kids that were killed in traffic crashes were between the ages of 8 and 15 in 2015 (547 of 1,132 total)
- 39% of children killed in fatal crashes in 2015 were not buckled
- 37% 8-15 year olds were in the front seat when killed in car crashes in 2012 (couldn’t find more recent stats)
- Except for in 2014 children 8 to 12 years old remain the group with the highest number of fatalities
The statistics here start at 8 years old, probably because that’s when you can legally stop using a booster seat in most states. However, most 8-year-old children do not fit properly in just the seat belt and still need to use a seat belt positioner like a booster or RideSafer.
So to fit our definition of tween, we are assuming the child is able to pass the 5-step seat belt fit test and is no longer using any sort of child restraint.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found as children get older, they are sometimes less likely to buckle up as the percentage of passengers who die while unrestrained increases with age and is most common among 13 and 14 year olds. This is why NHTSA started a campaign to “Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up.”
Why do tweens resist buckling up?
Here are the top reasons NHTSA found:
- Their parents do not buckle up.
- They are distracted by electronics, friends or otherwise focused on something else.
- The seat belt feels uncomfortable. (This may be because they are not ready for just the seat belt yet. Check the 5-step seat belt fit test.)
- They feel like they’ll be OK because it’s a short trip or the car is going slow. (Really most fatal crashes happen within 25 miles from home and at speeds less than 40 mph.)
- It’s night and they want to fall asleep or expect that their parent can’t see them to see if they are buckled.
Why do parents let their children forego car safety rules?
- They are rushed.
- Parents are distracted.
- They are trying to keep the peace.
- Parents see seat belts as uncomfortable or a nuisance, especially when in a hurry.
- They falsely associated a short drive at a low speed as lower risk (see note above).
- The kids are persistently asking to ride up front.
When children ride in the front seat they are 40% more likely to be injured in a crash compared to riding in the back seat. A CHOP study says more than 30% of 10 year olds sit in the front passenger seat. 90% of airbag fatalities are children sitting in the front seat.
Children riding in the front seat are 40% more likely to be injured in a crash than those riding in the back seat.
We get that kids can be annoyingly persistent and you want to pick your battles. This is one battle that is life and death and needs to be waged.
Buckling up ourselves and insisting our children buckle up is an important habit to be in. We are the number one influence (from birth) on our children’s seat belt use. Research shows children are more likely to buckle up if their parents do. That’s something to keep in mind as our children transition from tweens to drivers when we won’t be there to remind them to buckle up for every drive.
When it comes to tweens and seat belt safety here are a few things to remember:
- Always buckle up yourself.
- Do not drive until everyone is buckled up for every drive and verify they are.
- Teach them how to sit properly and why it’s important (if a seat belt is loose or out of position there is a greater risk of injury).
- Keep children under the age of 13 in the back seat.
We want to know, does your tween argue about wearing a seat belt? Share your comments below.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
Copyright 2019 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 March 2017. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.