Legislation Under Way
Currently, only 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that require children to be restrained in booster seats. "We hope the study will allow laws to come into alignment with the data," says Dennis Durbin, MD, MCSE, pediatric emergency physician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of the PCPS study.
Stephanie Tombrello, LCSW, executive director of SafetyBeltSafe USA, a non-profit advocacy group, is hopeful that more states will introduce and pass booster seat legislation. With legislation pending in 22 states, Tombrello says, "There is momentum growing to extend the requirement for child restraints past age four."
Legislators are swayed by the logic of the research findings, but if your child has been sitting in the car without a booster, using the seat belt alone, convincing him to ride in a booster might require more than logic. It will require parental determination. "Say, 'Safety in the car is non-negotiable,'" says Durbin. "It can be empowering for parents to adopt this strategy."
But with the right strategy, it's easy to avoid any battles at all. "Do the right first transition," encourages Durbin. "Move children from the car seat to the booster seat, and they won't expect to be in the belt alone."
The Five-Step Booster Check
If you're not sure whether your child should be in a booster seat, Stephanie Tombrello, LCSW, executive director of SafetyBeltSafe USA, a non-profit advocacy group, suggests you perform the "Five-Step Test." Next time you and your child are in the car, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
- Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
- Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
- Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
- Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?