Do You REALLY Know When Your Child No Longer Needs a Booster Seat?
This past May—over a five-day span—two young children were killed in two separate car accidents in northeastern Pennsylvania. According to police, one of the children, age 7, was wearing a seat belt. Officers said the child in the second crash, 6, was not restrained at all.
They are among hundreds of children who are fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes each year on U.S. roadways.
When these kinds of tragic car accidents happen, it's important that we ask ourselves and our loved ones an important question: Do you really know the proper way to restrain your kids in the car?
The knee-jerk answer is likely, "Yes, of course I do!"
But that's just not accurate, or so says a survey released last month by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
Why Aren't More Parents Using Booster Seats?
According to the National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats—a report issued annually since 2006—more than a third of children between the ages of 4 and 7 were not properly restrained inside the vehicles in which they were traveling.
While the number of children in that age range who've been fatally injured in car accidents has dropped from 570 in 2000 to 310 in 2014 (the most recent statistics available), the car accident injury attorneys at Edgar Snyder & Associates believe that number is still too high—and that the cargo is too precious—to ignore.
According to the national survey, there seems to be confusion specifically over how to properly restrain children between the ages of 4 and 7. So we're breaking the issue down and shedding some light on booster seats, who needs to be strapped into them, and until when.
If you're a parent, grandparent or caregiver to a child between the ages of 4 and 7, please read on. It could save a life.
Booster Seat Use by the Numbers
According to the national survey, 37.4 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 7 were not properly restrained. Of those children:
- 25.8 percent were restrained only by a seatbelt
- The other 11.6 percent were not restrained at all
Sadly, there's more: In 2015, 13.6 percent of children between the ages of 1 and 3 were transitioned from car seats to booster seats too soon.
It should go without saying that adults who do not use the proper car or booster seats to restrain their young children put them at a higher risk of injury or death. It is also against the law.
What Pennsylvania Law Says About Booster Seats
Some of us older folks may remember the days when it was perfectly acceptable for even the smallest children to ride in cars without seat belts or car seats—some may even fondly recall sitting on the laps of parents or grandparents while taking a Sunday drive.
But to loosely quote the late, great Maya Angelou, "Now that we know better, we do better."
And under Pennsylvania's Child Passenger Protection Laws, that means:
- All drivers transporting children younger than 8 must securely fasten them in the appropriate restraining system.
- All drivers transporting children younger than 2 must secure them in rear-facing car seats.
- All drivers transporting children between the ages of 4 and 8 must restrain them with both a seat belt and a booster seat.
When in doubt, read the manufacturer's recommended height and weight recommendations for your child's car or booster seat—and keep them in that system until they outgrow it. Check out our child passenger safety resource center, too. It's also important to check periodically for recall information for defective car seats.
If you don't follow Pennsylvania's car seat law, you could—at the least—be subject to a fine. At most, child endangerment charges could be levied against you.
Not Sure What System You Need? Can't Afford a Booster Seat? Help is Available
At Edgar Snyder & Associations, we understand that no parent would intentionally put their child in harm's way. However, we also know that children are injured and killed every year because a car or booster seat a parent thought was appropriate and correctly installed was not.
We want families with small children to know that the state Department of Transportation funds the operation of 75 fitting stations across the Keystone State. There, a certified child-passenger safety technician will ensure your child's car or booster seat is properly secured.
We also know that in tough times, some families may put off the purchase of a new car or booster seat simply because they cannot afford one—and we want them to know there is help available to them, too.
PennDOT also funds a car seat loan programs in many Pennsylvania counties that provide car and booster seats to families in need.