Focusing on The Use of Booster Seats

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In Arkansas, rates for motor vehicle death are about 70 percent higher than the national average, in part due to lower use of seat belts and child restraints in the state.

Arkansas Children's Hospital admits nearly 200 children each year due to motor vehicle injury. In coordination with National Child Passenger Safety Week, February 12 through 18, Arkansas Children's Hospital urges parents to buckle up their children in proper restraint seats.

National Child Passenger Safety Week is observed each year during Valentine's Day week; this year's focus is on booster seats. Despite increased awareness for age appropriate restraints for children between the ages of 4 and 8, booster seat use is estimated between only 10 and 20 percent nationally. Child safety seat use for infants and toddlers is estimated at more than 90 percent, with room for improvement.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among Americans, ages 3 through 33. The death rate in children is exceptionally high because they are often not restrained or improperly restrained. Each year, about 2,000 children younger than 14 years of age die and more than 265,000 are treated for injuries related to an automobile accident. Half of the children killed in automobile accidents are not restrained.

"Using the right restraint for every age and size is critical. Many parents believe that once their child is no longer a toddler, their vehicle's seatbelt provides sufficient protection; however, in the event of a crash, a seat belt alone is not enough to protect a child from injury or death. An adult's clothes don't fit a child ages 4 to 8 years of age, and neither does a seat belt designed for an adult," says Mary Aitken, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatrician at Arkansas Children's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine.

Children between the ages of 4 and 8 who use booster seats are almost 60 percent less likely to be injured in a car crash than children who are restrained by a safety belt alone. Children should begin using a booster seat once they grow out of their toddler seats, usually when they are around 4 years old and weigh about 40 pounds. They should remain in the booster seat until the lap and shoulder belt fits properly. This is usually when the child reaches about 4' 9" in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age.

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For overall child passenger seat safety, keep these guidelines in mind:

* use rear-facing infant seats in the backseat from birth to at least one year of age and until the child is at least 20 pounds;

* use forward-facing toddler seats in the back seat from 1 year of age to age 4 and until the child is 40 pounds;

* use booster seats in the back seat from ages 4 to 8, unless the child is 4'9" or taller; and

* use safety belts in the back seat at age 8 or older or if the child is taller than 4'9".

All children 12 years old and younger should ride in the back seat of a vehicle; never in the front passenger seat. The force behind vehicle airbags can be strong enough to kill a child, even in a slow-speed crash.

To ensure proper use of child safety seats, contact Arkansas Children's Hospital at (501) 364-KIDS, visit our Web site at www.archildrens.org

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