Checking Seat Belt Fit
To determine if a lap/shoulder belt properly fits a child, have the child put on the seat belt, then ask yourself:
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the seat?
2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably over the edge of the seat?
3. Does the shoulder belt cross between the child’s neck and arm?
4. Is the lap part of the belt as low as possible, touching the child’s thighs?
5. Will the child be able to stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If you answer yes to all these questions, the child is ready to wear the lap/shoulder belt correctly. If you answer no to any question, the child needs to ride on a booster seat.
Using a Booster Seat
A child who has outgrown a forwardfacing child seat should ride in a back seat and use a booster seat until the lap/shoulder belt fits them properly without the booster.
Some states and Canadian provinces also require children to use a booster seat until they reach a given age or weight (e.g., 6 years or 60 lbs). Be sure to check current laws in the states or provinces where you intend to drive.
Booster seats can be high-back or low-back. Whichever style you select, make sure the booster seat meets federal safety standards and that you follow the booster seat maker’s instructions.
If a child who uses a booster seat must ride in front, move the vehicle seat as far back as possible and be sure the child is wearing the seat belt properly.
A child may continue using a booster seat until the tops of their ears are even with the top of the vehicle’s or booster’s seat-back. A child of this height should be tall enough to use the lap/shoulder belt without a booster seat.
When Can a Larger Child Sit in Front
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Transport Canada recommend that all children age 12 and under be properly restrained in a back seat.
If the passenger’s front airbag inflates in a moderate to severe frontal collision, the airbag can cause serious injuries to a child who is unrestrained, improperly restrained, sitting too close to the airbag, or out of position.
A side airbag also poses risks. If any part of a larger child’s body is in the path of a deploying side airbag, the child could receive possibly serious injuries.
Of course, children vary widely. And while age may be one indicator of when a child can safely ride in front, there are other important factors you should consider.
Physically, a child must be large enough for the lap/shoulder belt to properly fit. If the seat belt does not fit properly, with or without the child sitting on a booster seat, the child should not sit in front.
To safely ride in front, a child must be able to follow the rules, including sitting properly, and wearing the seat belt properly throughout a ride.
If you decide that a child can safely ride up front, be sure to:
• Carefully read the owner’s manual, and make sure you understand all seat belt instructions and all safety information.
• Move the vehicle seat to the rearmost position.
• Have the child sit up straight, back against the seat, and feet on or near the floor.
• Check that the child’s seat belt is properly and securely positioned.
• Supervise the child. Even a mature child sometimes needs to be reminded to fasten the seat belt or sit properly.
Additional Safety Precautions
• Do not let a child wear a seat across the neck.
This could result in serious neck injuries during a crash. • Do not let a child put the shoulder part of a seat belt behind the back or under the arm.
This could cause very serious injuries during a crash. It also increases the chance that the child will slide under the belt in a crash and be injured. • Two children should never use the same seat belt.
If they do, they could be very seriously injured in a crash. • Do not put any accessories on a seat belt.
Devices intended to improve a child’s comfort or reposition the shoulder part of a seat belt can make the belt less effective and increase the chance of serious injury in a crash.
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