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Child Passenger Safety (cont.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I just hold my unrestrained baby while riding in a motor vehicle?

During a crash, a baby will become so heavy that you cannot keep hold of it. For example, in a crash at 25 mph, a 12-pound baby suddenly will become a 240-pound force in your arms. Additionally, your body suddenly will become a force capable of crushing your baby between you and the dashboard or seat back.

Although you may be tempted to take a crying baby out of its restraint for a "few minutes" or because you are going "just a short distance," remember that accidents happen within seconds but regrets can last a lifetime.

What if a child weighs more than 40 pounds and the car only has lap belts in the back seat?

There are special car seats available that can utilize the lap belt only. Contact your local car seat dealer for information. Consider contacting your auto dealer about installing shoulder belts in the back seat.

There are instances when children must regularly sit in the front because the vehicle has no rear seat; there are too many children for all to ride in back; or a child has a medical condition that requires monitoring. In those situations, the air bag should be turned off. If, in an emergency, children must sit in the front seat, they should be restrained in a booster seat in the front seat using a lap and shoulder safety belt as long as you move the front vehicle seat as far back as possible.

Why are booster seats recommended over lap-belt-alone use for children younger than 8 years and less than 80 pounds?

Lap belt restraints are designed to protect an adult in a crash by transmitting the force of a collision to the bones above the hips that are part of the pelvis. But lap belt restraints can ride up onto the soft area of a child's abdomen, transmitting the collision force to internal organs - liver, spleen, and intestines - and to the backbone or spinal cord. Additionally, when a lap belt restraint is not snug across the lap, a child can be ejected from the seat.

Child Passenger Protection Laws

  • All U.S. states and territories have child passenger protection laws.
  • Until recently, almost all state safety belt laws were "secondary enforcement," meaning that a citation could be written only after an officer stopped the vehicle for some other infraction.
  • To see child passenger protection laws by state/territory, visit the web site of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/19/2016

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