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- Every year children suffer needless injury. Children ages 4 to 8 who use booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a car crash than children who are restrained only by a safety belt, according to a study by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). According to NHTSA, motor vehicle traffic crashes were the leading cause of death for every age 3 through 33.
- Children ages 4 to 8 are generally too small for adult safety belts (which lay incorrectly on their necks and along their stomachs). These kids need a “boost” to ensure the safety belt will fit securely across their chests, and low and snug across their hips—to help prevent internal injuries, neck, head and spinal injuries, and even ejection and death in the event of a crash.
Children who should use a booster seat
For maximum protection, keep a child in a forward-facing child safety seat with full harness as long as the child fits in this seat. (See the instructions for your child safety seat for best fit.)
A child who weighs between about 35 and 80 lbs
A child who has outgrown a convertible child safety seat
Usually a child who is about 4 to 8 years old and is at least 35” tall
A child who cannot sit with his or her back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion or who cannot sit with knees bent over a vehicle’s seat edge without slouching
Reasons to use a booster seat
Generally, a child who is 4 to 8 years old is not big enough for lap and shoulder belts alone.
A booster seat fills the gap between a convertible child safety seat and the vehicle lap and shoulder belt.
The booster seat raises the child so the vehicle lap and shoulder belt fits well: the lap belt rests low across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt rests snugly on the shoulder across the chest.
Properly fitting lap and shoulder belts reduce the potential for belt-induced injury which can occur when a lap belt is a child’s only restraint.
All children ages 12 and under should sit, properly restrained in the back seat whenever possible. It’s safer!
Never use just a lap belt across a child sitting in a belt-positioning booster.
Never put the shoulder belt behind a child’s arm or back because it eliminates the protection for the upper part of the body and increases the risk of severe injury in a crash.
Never use pillows, books, or towels to boost a child. They can slide around.
State child passenger safety laws apply to infant, convertible, and booster child safety seats.
Buying a booster seat
All booster seats are required by law to comply with the same standards and guidelines as child safety seats.
When buying a booster seat make sure that it has a label stating: This child restraint system conforms to all applicable U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Never use a booster seat that has been in a crash. The seat may have defects that are not visible.
VIRGINIA STATE CODES GOVERNING CHILD RESTRAINT SEATS
§ 46.2-1095. Child restraint devices required when transporting certain children; safety belts for other children less than sixteen years old required; penalty.
- Any person who drives on the highways of Virginia any motor vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968, shall ensure that any child, up to age eight, whom he transports therein is provided with and properly secured in a child restraint device of a type which meets the standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation. Further, rear-facing child restraint devices shall be placed in the back seat of a vehicle. In the event the vehicle does not have a back seat, the child restraint device may be placed in the front passenger seat only if the vehicle is either not equipped with a passenger side airbag or the passenger side airbag has been deactivated.
- Any person transporting any child less than sixteen years old, except for those required pursuant to subsection A to be secured in a child restraint device, shall ensure that such child is provided with and properly secured by an appropriate safety belt system when driving on the highways of Virginia in any motor vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968, equipped or required by the provisions of this title to be equipped with a safety belt system, consisting of lap belts, shoulder harnesses, combinations thereof or similar devices.
§ 46.2-1100. Use of standard seat belts permitted for certain children.
The use of a seat belt of the type which is standard equipment shall not violate this article if (i) the affected child is at least four years old but less than eight years old and (ii) any physician licensed to practice medicine in the Commonwealth or any other state determines that use of a child restraint system by a particular child would be impractical by reason of the child's weight, physical fitness, or other medical reason, provided that any person transporting a child so exempted shall carry on his person or in the vehicle a signed written statement of the physician identifying the child so exempted and stating the grounds for the determination.
Types of Booster Seats You Can Use
Two types of high-back belt-positioning booster seats are available. Both types “boost” your child up so the vehicle safety belt fits better.
HIGH-BACK BELT-POSITIONING BOOSTER SEATS
- One type provides head and neck support for your child if your vehicle seat back does not have a head rest. It must be used with the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt, never with the lap belt only.
- The other, a combination seat, converts from a forward-facing toddler seat to a booster seat and comes equipped with a harness. This type can be used as a forward-facing toddler seat when your child is age 1 and at least 20 pounds to about age 4 and 40 pounds. When your child outgrows the toddler seat, remove the harness and use the seat as a booster seat with the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt.
NO-BACK BELT-POSITIONING BOOSTER SEAT
- This type also “boosts” your child up so the vehicle safety belt fits better. This booster seat is used with a lap/shoulder belt. It should only be used in vehicles with built-in head rests.
All booster seats are required by law to comply with the same safety standards as child safety seats. Your booster seat must have a label stating that it meets Federal motor vehicle safety standards.