- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2000

Just because a child is too big for a car seat, that doesn't mean it is time to travel like an adult. According to the CDC, 14,411 children in that age group were involved in serious car accidents nationwide from 1994 to 1998; 2,549 children ages 4 to 8 died in those crashes. The report showed that more than two-thirds of the children killed were not wearing a safety restraint, and fewer than half (49 percent) were in the back seat.
"Parents need to understand [they] are putting [their] children at incredible risk of injury and death by putting them in the front seat," says Karen DiCapua, director of child passenger safety for the National Safe Kids Campaign. "Most crashes happen head-on. Air bags put children at risk of injury, as does their proximity to the windshield. Children are always safer in the back seat."
A child is even safer if he or she is in a booster seat in the back, says Steven Trockman, lead author of the CDC report.
"We have a known problem and a known vaccine for it sitting in a booster seat in the back," he says. "The vaccine is not getting to the children."
Though many parents have gotten the message that infants and toddlers need to be in safety seats, they are still unclear about what to do after a child is about age 4, Ms. DiCapua says. Only about 5 percent of the children killed in accidents were in booster seats, she says.
The National Safe Kids Campaign recommends that babies sit in a rear-facing car seat until they are 1 year old and at least 20 pounds.
After that, a child should sit in a forward-facing convertible seat with an internal (five-point or overhead) harness. Once a child weighs 40 pounds, he or she can move to a booster seat used in conjunction with a lap-shoulder belt.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recom-mend that children stay in a booster seat until they are 58 inches tall and weight 80 pounds. Most children are that size between ages 8 and 10.
A booster seat will put a child in position so the shoulder belt fits securely between the neck and arm and the lap belt fits across the upper thighs.
"When a small child is in an adult seat belt, the belt is often too large," Ms. DiCapua says. "The shoulder belt might clip off, and the lap belt alone can cause severe abdominal and spinal injuries."
Though all 50 states have infant-restraint laws, the CDC found wide gaps for children ages 4 to 8.
No state requires the use of booster seats, and 19 states allow children to ride in the back seat without a restraint. Only 12 states prohibit the use of adult seat belts for children.

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