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Editorial: Parents, give a boost to your child’s safety

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety sent out a press release earlier this week that serves as a good reminder to parents to always use booster seats when buckling young children into the car.

Booster seats are the law in Minnesota, yet crash data reveals that many parents are not using them correctly, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety. Three out of four child restraints are used incorrectly, either because the restraints are not properly secured or the kids are positioned the wrong way.

Only 64 percent of parents or caregivers use booster seats at all.

The sad statistics shared in the press release show how important booster seats are to child safety:

- Since 2008, 10 children between the ages of 4 and 7 have been killed in traffic accidents in Minnesota. Of those, only two were in booster seats.

- Of the 2,121 children injured in traffic accidents, less than half were properly restrained in booster seats.

- Of the 6,170 children who were in a booster and involved in a crash, 84 percent were unharmed.

“Traffic crashes are the leading killer of Minnesota children, and one reason for this is parents are rushing children into riding in just a seat belt before the child is tall enough,” stated Heather Darby, Office of Traffic Safety child passenger safety program coordinator, in the release. “Booster seats are critical to prevent improperly fitting seat belts, which can result in serious and fatal injuries.”

In recognition of Child Passenger Safety Week, which continues through this Saturday, Sept. 21, let’s review the laws regarding booster seat usage.

In Minnesota, children must ride in a booster seat upon outgrowing a forward-facing harnessed restraint (or car seat, in layman’s terms). Children should ride in a booster until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall, or at least age 8.

The point is to ensure that the seat belt fits right. The shoulder strap must be over the child’s shoulder and chest, and the lap belt over the hips, not the abdomen. Seat belts should never cut across the neck, and shoulder straps should never be placed under an arm or behind the back.

It’s safest for children to ride in the back seat until age 13.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to visit for instructional videos on how to install and use various car seats.