How to check if your child is ready to use the seat belt.
In Singapore, the law requires anyone below 1.35m in height to be secured with an appropriate restraint, booster seat, or adjustable seat belt. How can you tell whether your child has graduated to the seat belt or still requires a booster seat? Here are five seat-belt fitting criteria:
1. The seat belt crosses the shoulder properly
The belt should be centered on his collarbone. If the seat belt is too high and touches the neck, the child may find it uncomfortable and try to tuck it behind his back or under his arm; neither affords protection to the upper body. A seat belt that sits off the shoulder can also slip off during a road accident, putting the child in grave danger.
2. The lower back is against the car seat
If the child is slouching forward to allow his legs to swing over the edge of the seat, a gap will be created between his back and the seat. This will cause the seat belt to ride out of position onto his belly. It will also cause slack in the seat belt, such that the child moves forward more during an accident. Both can give rise to devastating consequences.
3. Lap part of the belt lies low on the hips, at the top of the thighsThe lap portion of the belt needs to stay on the upper thighs. If it is up over the soft tissue of the abdomen, it could cause seat belt syndrome, where the internal organs are injured in an accident.
4. The knees bend comfortably over the edge of the seat with feet flat on the floor
The child should not have to slump forward in order to bend his legs, as the seat belt could ride up off his hips and onto the soft part of his belly, above his hip bones.
5. The child can sit this way for the entire trip
It’s overambitious to expect children to remain perfectly still throughout a trip, but they should not be moving around to the extent that the seat belt gets out of position. This is likely to happen with an ill-fitting seat belt.
This five-step test is a guide to determine the optimal time for children to start riding without a booster seat. The test is important because adult seat belts are not designed to restrain young children, while ill-fitting seat belts can cause injuries during an accident. The test takes into account the child’s size, ability to stay seated properly, depth of vehicle seat, and seatbelt geometry. Using a belt-positioning booster seat for children who don’t yet pass the five-step test plays a vital role in minimising the risk of injury.
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