Is Your 4 to 8-year-old Child Using an Adult Seat Belt?

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Children between the ages of four and eight years old fall into an area that,up till now, has been neglected by safety advocates. These children (in the range of 40 to 80 pounds) are too big to fit in a standard child safety seat and are too small to properly use an adult safety belt. They tend to complain that the shoulder portion of the belt rubs against their neck and often insist on placing the shoulder belt behind them or, in many cases, removing the belt entirely. When they do wear the belt, the lap portion of the belt often falls too high across their abdomen which can cause serious internal injuries in a crash.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that while injuries and fatalities involving infants and toddlers are down because of aggressive education efforts, injuries and fatalities among children between four and eight years old have not declined. In fact, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children in this age group taking more than 500 lives per year and seriously injuring thousands more.

To keep our children safe, we need to make sure that they ride in booster seats. According to the NHTSA, a child under 80 pounds is almost always too small for an adult belt. These kids tend to squirm, play and fall asleep while riding in cars, making the problem worse. They also found that by using a booster seat, the child is elevated to a position that allows the belt to fit properly with the added benefit of allowing the child to easily see out of the window.

I created this page after a conversation with Autumn Alexander Skeen, a child safety advocate from Washington state who was instrumental in getting her state to become the first to mandate that children from four to eight years of age ride in booster seats. “Anton’s Law” is named after her son, who was killed in an accident because he was wearing an adult seat belt that a paramedic found still buckled after Anton was ejected from the car.

Ms. Skeen joined forces with Ford Motor Company to create “Boost America” the most comprehensive child safety campaign in automotive history to protect “these forgotten children.”

On April 19,2000 at the New York Auto Show, Ford President and CEO Jac Nasser along with Ms. Skeen announced their campaign to distribute one million of these booster seats in the first year. Ford has pledged a significant financial commitment to provide 500,000 free booster seats during the first year of the campaign for families that cannot afford them. Nasser is shown here talking to the children who demonstrated the booster seats at the press conference. Left to right:Ford’s Jim O’Connell; Autum Skeen; and Jac Nasser.

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Charles Ofria

Automotive Expert

Charles Ofria was an automotive journalist who was active in the automotive industry for over 40 years. During the '70s, he was owner-operator of Ofria Automotive, a thriving auto repair shop in Brooklyn, NY. During that time he became involved with auto mechanic training when he set up courses to help prepare mechanics to take the then new A.S.E. (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic certification exams.

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