If you think you already practice safe driving when you buckle up your big kid, a video that's gone viral recently will make you think again.
Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia, released a car seat safety video that has gathered more than 8 million views since it was posted on their Facebook page Nov. 16. It has triggered parents to reconsider the value of booster seats.
Across the internet people are tagging the video to share it with friends, prompting a discussion of whether or not older children are really ready to graduate out of booster seats or assisted restraints in a car.
The video shows a grim reenactment of a car crash, in which a distraught mother, upon arriving at the hospital emergency room, is asked by a doctor if her son had been buckled into the back seat with a booster seat.
"No, I mean, he's almost 10 years old," she tells the doctor, through sobs.
"There’s a possibility he has some damage to his major organs, OK?" says Dr. Phillip Thomas, who is an actual pediatric resident at the medical school, in the dramatized video. "The concern is that he may have had some injury to his neck and vital structures."
Booster seats, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states on its website, may be necessary for children from age 4 up until the age of 12. But, as the experts in the video note, far more important than the age of the child is his or her height and how well a standard car seat and seat belt fit that child.
Booster seats raise the child up enough so that the belt can fasten across the strongest areas of the child’s frame: the hips and shoulder area. According to Eastern Virginia Medical School, if the two belts are not adjusted properly, they can cross a young child's neck or stomach area, potentially causing serious damage in a crash even while restrained.
In other words, when a child has outgrown a car seat, the child should continue to use a booster in order for the car's seat belt to properly fit.
Is my child ready to bump the booster?
In the video released by the Eastern Virginia Medical School, Robert Bailey, the Lee County deputy sheriff, outlines the "Fit Test" – a series of easy visual cues parents can rely on to decide if their child is ready to kick the booster seat:
Child can sit all the way back with his or her back against the seat
Child's knees are bent at the edge of the seat
Child's feet are flat on the floor
In this position, see that both:
The shoulder belt comes across the shoulder and chest, not the neck or face;
- The lap belt fits across the upper thighs, not the stomach area
The medical school reports that use of booster seats can "dramatically reduce" injuries from crashes, and that just 43 percent of booster-size children actually travel with booster seats in place.
Booster seat guidelines
Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website to determine when and how to use a booster seat for your child, as well as for more detailed equipment information, installation guidance and basics around car seat and booster seat types.