Stephanie Tombrello: Hello, I am Stephanie Tombrello, Executive Director of SafetyBeltSafe U.
A. We have been talking about how to protect your older child in the car. Now, we are going to talk about how to know when your child is ready to use a safety belt alone. We have developed the five step test which is really the only way to predict whether your child fits in your car with or without a booster.
The first step is to have a youngster sit in the car with his back completely against the vehicle seat. Then you look to see where his knees are. They need to be fully bent over the front. Next, we will put the safety belt on. Now we want to see where is the shoulder belt, is it between the neck and the top of the arm and then the lap belt. Now, for most people their concern is about the shoulder belt but in fact the part of the belt that may injure an older child is the lap portion. That's because it needs to be flat over the top of the thighs because the bone development of a child of this age is not complete.
If the lap belt is up into the abdomen you can have serious injuries in a crash and finally you want to say, can my child sit exactly properly in the belt for the entire trip? Many children find that they are so uncomfortable that they squirm around. They get out of position and then the lap belt is even more in the wrong position. One of the issues for children who have grown into being able to use a safety belt alone have to deal with, they are remembering to do it right and they are remembering to do it at all. So be sure you supervise your youngster for a while. Make sure that they are buckling up on every ride and putting the safety belt in the proper locations. They must not slouch, they must not lie down in the car. They need to keep the safety belt on the shoulder and hipbones and they need to remember to keep it snug to their bodies.
One thing we want is for children to stay in the backseat as long as possible. Current research shows that youngsters are better off in the backseat until at least age 15. This has to do with maturation and bone development as well as the equipment that's in many cars. Fifteen is a rather natural time to move to the front seat at least on some occasions because many children are now in their teen years beginning to think of learning to drive and they still have to drive from the front seat.
However, the back seat provides 40% better protection and therefore it's no favor to your young teen to move that child to the front seat. That's how to know when your older child is ready to sit in a safety belt alone. Next, I am going to talk about how to keep your teen safe in the car.