How a Tape Measure and a Scale Could Save Your Kid's Life 34906

Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for children 4 to 10 years old. Buckling a child safely into a car seat or booster seat can dramatically reduce the risk of  serious injury, yet 9 in 10 parents are switching their kids from boosters to seatbelt-only restraints before the children are big enough to be safe sans booster, according to a new survey from Safe Kids Worldwide and the General Motors Foundation. (Disclosure: I sit on the board of Safe Kids Worldwide, so this issue is especially near to my heart.)

Here's where the tape measure and scale come in:  Seven in 10 parents surveyed didn't know that a child should be at least 57" tall (4'9") to ride in a car without a booster seat. So pull out your measuring device and check your child's height before you yield to his appeal to ditch the booster. Weigh him too: Your child should also be at least 80 pounds before going boosterless. Lots of children won't hit these marks until they are 11 or even older according to this info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Check your child's stats even if you previously reviewed your state's booster regulations (rules vary from state to state). Many states don't require boosters after age 7, much less until age 11. These are also among the states with the highest rates of motor vehicle fatalities among kids ages 4 to 8. (I'm talking to you, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky.)

Carpools are particularly worrisome, according to the Safe Kids Worldwide report. Anyone who even occasionally shuttles around extra kids should keep a spare booster in their trunk. I sometimes find that my own child is out of the booster zone but we ferry a friend who is not. Indeed, one in five parents in the survey said they bend the rules when carpooling.

Of course all this is moot if you don't buckle your kid up in the first place, and an astounding one in three fatalities in 2012 happened when a child was completely unbuckled during a crash. So let's all resolve to buckle our kids, every time. And if you have younger children who are still in a car seat (as opposed to a booster) it's a good idea to check to make sure the seat is installed properly. Visit Safe Kids to find out where you can get guidance from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician on proper installation of your seat.

Photograph: MikhailSh via Shutterstock