BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — September 18-24 is National Child Passenger Safety Week, and the Department of Health and Human Services is working with Vision Zero to warn parents and caregivers not to give their children’s booster seats the boot quite so early.

According to the two groups, children who use a belt-positioning booster seat while in the back seat of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash, when compared to those who are only wearing a seat belt.

It’s advised that all children who outgrow their forward-facing car seat should use a belt-positioning booster until the seat belt fits properly. Most children won’t fit into vehicle seats without a belt-positioning booster (advised to be when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches) until 10-12 years of age.

The following is a list of why the Department of Health and Human Services and Vision Zero recommend the use of belt-positioning boosters.

  • Seat belts are designed to fit adult-sized bodies, and young children are too small for a safe and proper seat belt fit.
  • Belt-positioning booster seats raise children up so that their seat belts lie across the stronger bones of the chest and pelvis rather than the belly and neck.
  • When a small child rides in an adult seat belt, the shoulder belt can rub on their neck or face, causing children to modify the seat by putting the belt behind their back or under their arm. This takes away upper body protection.
  • Children who ride in a seat belt prematurely often wear the belt dangerously high on their stomachs, increasing the risk of injury to their abdominal areas.

It’s good to use a booster when the children are young, but how can you tell when your child is ready to use a seat belt? A good way to find out is by trying this five-step test. Sit your child in the back seat, then consider these factors:

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

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, then your child would still be safer riding in the back seat with a belt-positioning booster. As a whole, children under 13 are much safer when riding in the back seat.

More information about child passenger safety can be found here.