Child Passenger Safety, Children Ages 10 to 14 Years

Every month about 14 children ages 10 to 14 years are hospitalized and more than 300 children are treated and released from hospital emergency rooms because of motor vehicle crashes in New York State (NYS). Unrestrained children are twice as likely to be injured in a motor vehicle crash compared to children in the same age group who are riding restrained. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, safety belts reduce the risk of serious injuries to the head, chest, and extremities by an estimated 50 percent to 83 percent.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes.

What NYS child passenger safety laws are important for me to know?

NYS law requires children ages eight to 15 years to use safety belts when riding in motor vehicles. The use of appropriate child restraint systems, such as, belt-positioning booster seats is permitted as adult seat belts may not properly fit some children in this age group if they are less than 4'9" tall. More information on New York State's Law on child passenger safety can be found at www.safeny.ny.gov.

What type of restraint should my child use when riding in the car?

Have your child use lap and shoulder belts rather than lap only belts.

In a crash, the upper body of a child using only a lap belt may be thrown forward until he or she is stopped by something in the car, such as the dashboard, front seats, consoles, door frames, even the floor of the vehicle or the child's knees. This can cause serious injuries to the head, neck or spine. If the lap only belt is crossing over the child's stomach, it should not be used. Serious injuries can occur to vital organs and the spine if a crash occurs. The child should use a booster set with a lap and shoulder belt.

A girl using lap and shoulder safety belts in a motor vehicle.

If needed, continue to use a booster seat to properly position the lap and shoulder belt.

Most children in this age group are tall enough so the shoulder and lap belt fit properly. However, your child may need to use a booster seat if he/she is less than 4 feet and 9 inches tall. Place your child on the vehicle seat buckle up without the booster seat and answer the following questions.

A boy using a booster seat and lap and shoulder safety belts in a motor vehicle.

It is safe to use a lap and shoulder belt without a booster seat when you can answer "

  1. While sitting with his/her back up against the vehicle seat, does your child's knees bend comfortably over the front edge of the seat?
  2. Does the lap belt cross over the upper legs or hips (not over the stomach)?
  3. Does the shoulder belt rest on the shoulder or collarbone (not touching the neck)?
  4. Can your child keep the correct seating position during the entire trip in the car? If the child slouches or shifts positions so the safety belt touches the face, neck or stomach, a booster seat should be used.

Have your child take this test for each vehicle they ride as vehicles differ in the size of their seats and locations of their seat belts.

When is it safe for my child to ride in the front seat?

Children age 12 and under should ride in the back seat as this is the safest place to sit in a vehicle.

My child wants to sit in the front seat. What can I do to encourage them to continue to sit in the back seat?

  • Let your child know that his or her safety is your main concern and explain the benefits of riding in the back seat. Allow your child to pick the radio station or CD he or she wants to listen to on trips.
  • Let your child "own" their space in the back seat and allow him or her to set up places to keep things, such as electronic games, so that's the first place they will want to go. Make sure you have a place to store items to keep them secured. In a crash, unsecured items can fly around in the vehicle injuring occupants.

My child does not want to buckle up. What can I do?

Let your child know that seat belt use is not an option, it's the law. Share the safety benefits of using safety belts and indicate your concern for your child's safety. You can also start to drive only when everyone is buckled up – no exceptions.

What can I do to encourage my child to buckle up throughout his/her life?

During this time, your child is developing habits that will continue into their teen and adult years. Your son or daughter is likely to adopt your driving behaviors and attitudes, so be a positive role model for our child. Always buckle up and make sure everyone in the car buckles up before driving. Drive safely and follow the NYS motor vehicle laws.

What are some other tips to keep my child safe when riding in the car?

  • Never allow your child to "share" seat belts with another child.
  • Make sure your child is riding with the vehicle seat upright. Seat belts will not work properly if the seat back is reclined.
  • It is dangerous for children to place the shoulder belt under their arms or behind their backs. If the shoulder belt does not fit properly, your child may need to use a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • Have your child buckle up every time, every ride, even on short trips. Most crashes happen close to home.
  • Make sure other drivers know and abide by your safety rules when your child rides in their vehicles.
  • Empower your child to routinely make safe riding decisions, such as consistently buckling up and riding in the back seat, when riding with you and other drivers.
  • Have your child ride with adult drivers. Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers due to their lack of driving experience. Young drivers are also less likely to enforce safety rules, such as consistently making sure everyone is buckled up or riding in the back seat, and more likely to be distracted while driving than older drivers.

Where can I find more information about child passenger safety?