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Children and families

During National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 18-24, 2022, the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in partnership with Vision Zero warns parents and caregivers not to transition their children from a belt positioning booster seat to only a seat belt too early. Children who use a belt positioning booster seat in the back seat of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash than children who use only a seat belt.

All children who outgrow their forward-facing car seat should use a belt positioning booster until the seat belt fits properly, which is typically when they have reached 4-feet-9-inches in height and are 8-12 years of age. Most children will not fit in vehicle seat belts without a belt positioning booster until 10-12 years of age.

Why are belt positioning boosters recommended?

  • Seat belts are designed to fit adult-sized bodies and young children are too small for a safe and correct seat belt fit.
  • Belt positioning booster seats raise children up so that their seat belts lie across the strong bones of the chest and the pelvis instead of the belly and neck.
  • Often when a small child rides in an adult seat belt, the shoulder belt will either rub on their neck or face. Children will often then modify the seat belt fit by either putting the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm. This habit will take away any upper body protection and put their upper body at greater risk of injury in a crash.
  • Children who ride in a seat belt prematurely often wear the lap belt dangerously high on the tummy, increasing the risk of injury to their abdominal area. 

When can a child safely transition to a seat belt? To determine if your child is ready for a seat belt, try the five-step test below.

Sit your child in the back seat and put on the seat belt.

  • Can your child sit with a straight back against the vehicle seat back?
  • In that position, do their legs bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
  • Does the lap belt stay low, touching the child’s thighs (not their belly)?
  • Does the shoulder belt cross the center of the child’s shoulder?
  • Can your child sit this way without slouching throughout the entire ride?

If you answered no to any of these questions, your child would be safer riding in a belt positioning booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt - in the back seat. Children under age 13 are safer riding in the back seat.

For more information, visit: https://www.health.nd.gov/north-dakota-child-passenger-safety or contact Dawn Mayer, Child Passenger Safety Program director, at 701-328-4536.

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