Vehicle Safety for Your Older Child

 Did you know that children between the ages of 8 and 15 are injured more in motor vehicle crashes than younger children? Did you know these older children are also more likely to be unrestrained?

Since children in this age group are more at risk for serious injury and death, safety advocates have been trying to figure out the best way to improve how they are protected. The solution is simple and up to you… Take a good look at your children between the ages of 8 and 15. Appearances can be deceiving when it comes to your child’s safety.  Your child has grown, looks bigger and has gained new skills and abilities. Although your child gives the appearance of being bigger, that doesn’t mean he or she is as safe in the vehicle as an adult. Although older children  may seem as big as an adult on the outside, they are not an adult on the inside.Your child still needs special consideration when riding in a vehicle. The best things you can do to keep your child safe in the vehicle are:

  1. Make sure he or she rides in the back seat until age 13. Your child may look big enough to ride in the front, but they aren’t.  Even if your car doesn’t have an active airbag in front, your child is safer in the back seat.

  1. Make sure they are buckled up every trip no matter how long the trip.  (This goes for all everyone in the vehicle!) Most crashes occur within 6 miles from home.

  2. Use a booster until the seat belt fits your child properly. He or she may look big enough but may still need that extra boost! The child’s height, weight, body proportions, as well as the vehicle configuration can all contribute to proper seatbelt fit.

  3. To check for proper seat belt seat, make sure your child can sit all the way back on the vehicle seat with his or her knees bent at the end of the seat.  The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the shoulder, not across the neck or face.  The lap belt should lay low over the upper thighs, not the abdomen.

  4. Make sure everyone who drives your child follows these safety rules.


 You may be thinking…

Does it really matter if the seat belt fits my child like an adult?

The answer is YES it matters and here’s why we say some children 8 years and older may still need to use a booster seat:

  • The bones in their hips aren’t fully developed until 12 – 13 years of age, which can cause the lap part of the seat belt to ride up on their stomachs instead of staying low on their hips.  If the lap belt isn’t positioned low on the hips, it can cause injuries to a child’s abdominal organs in the event of a crash.

  • A child’s breast bone (sternum) may not be fully developed putting them at more risk for injury in a crash.

  • The ligaments between the bones in a child’s neck are not as developed or as strong as an adult’s are.

  • A child’s skeleton needs to be fully developed before a seat belt can provide the same level of protection it does for an adult.

  • A booster seat helps to properly position the shoulder/lap belt. This allows a child to tolerate the forces in a crash better, reducing the risk of injury.

If you are interested in learning more about better protecting your child passengers, visit these websites: