Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Boosters: Put Your Hands on Your Hips

A lot of parents think that once their child is in a booster seat, all they have to do is put it in the car, buckle up the kid and hit the road.  NOT SO FAST!  Make sure the booster is doing a good job of positioning the seat belt!

How to tell?  To start, "put your hands on your hips."  THAT'S where the seat belt must cross -- on an adult OR a child, in order to properly restrain the body in a crash. 

Whether in a frontal, rear or side impact collision, the body can be thrown in many directions. The seat belt retracts when the vehicle stops suddenly, and is designed to hold the body AT THE PELVIS (hard, bony, strong) and help the body "ride down" the crash forces. 

If the belt crosses over the belly or the belly button, it is much too high.  In a crash, the belt could crush soft vital organs like the liver, intestines, and kidneys as it restrains the body.  A lacerations on the liver or tears in the bowel are serious, life threatening injuries.  They can also change or impair the body forever, e.g., colostomy.  There is also the risk of spinal injury, if the belt impacts the spine (after it's gone through all the soft-tissue organs mentioned above).

The shoulder belt should cross at the middle of the child's shoulder -- not on the shoulder joint and obviously not across the neck.  Again, across the skeleton, not soft tissue.

So what's the best booster seat? Just as with car seats, the BEST booster seat is one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, and can be used correctly 100% of the time.  Each child has his or her proportions -- long torso, wide shoulders, petite, etc., and back seats have many variations:  bench, captain's chair, etc.  Try out several at a big-box store (some will even let you test them in your car) and see which one(s) fit your child best.  And whether you want to play "Simon Says" with your child or teach him the Time Warp, make sure to put your hands on your hips as a reminder!

Here's a terrific explanation of proper booster use, selection and fit, from CarseatBlog (official blog of the wonderful CarSeat.Org.

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