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  • Car Booster Seats Urged for Kids
    Bridging Years Between Safety Seats, Seat Belts

    Feb. 15, 2000

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government is launching a campaign to encourage the use of booster seats for youngsters who have outgrown child safety seats but aren't big enough to rely solely on adult restraints.

    Children cannot fit safely into adult belts when they weigh 40 to 80 pounds and are about 4 to 8 years old, officials say. But less than 5 percent of those children use booster seats, according to an ongoing study of more than 20,000 children by the University of Pennsylvania, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance.

    "Booster seats, properly used, can help prevent injury to older children by making adult-sized seat belts fit effectively," Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said in announcing a campaign that includes the distribution of 50,000 brochures and $7.5 million in grant money to states to promote child passenger safety.

    Studies show about 70 percent of children 3 and younger are properly restrained, but that number drops to as low as 20 percent for children 4 to 9, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.

    Allows proper positioning

    Booster seats allow children who have outgrown child seats to properly position lap belts around their hips and shoulder belts across their chests.

    Without the seats, the shoulder belts can tangle around a child's neck and the lap portion of the belt can ride up over the abdomen. That lap belt position places children at risk of liver, spleen, intestinal and spinal cord injuries during a crash.

    In 1998, 495 children ages 5 to 9 were killed and 86,000 were injured in crashes.

    Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. announced Monday it would provide free dealer installation of tether strap anchors in all its vehicles from 1989 through 2000 models. The strap, already required in Canada, more securely fastens the top of child seats to give children better protection from forward head movement in crashes.

    The federal government is requiring top tether anchors in all vehicles beginning with the 2001 model year. The strap usually is connected to the back of a vehicle's package shelf.

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