It used to be said that the most dangerous ride in a child’s life is the ride home from the hospital.
In the 1990s there was a campaign to make sure every newborn rode home from the hospital in a car seat.
The campaign focused on child car seats as an alternative much safer than carrying a newborn home in the mother’s arms or lying on the back seat, both common practices because newborns are too small for seat belts to be effective.
The Need for a Child Car Seat Alternative
The campaign was effective in increasing the use of car seats, but children outgrow the protective enclosure of a car seat after about 4 years. After that children need to use the seat belts to secure themselves, rather than the car seat. But seat belts are designed for people over 57 inches (4’9”) tall, and most children don’t reach that height till around age 12.
Booster Seats and Safety Features on Newer Cars
One danger of wearing a seat belt too big for you is submarining, which occurs when a passenger slides under a loosely fitting seat belt, instead of being restrained by it, often being stopped by the abdomen or armpits, and often suffering serious internal injuries.
Another cause of submarining is a too-soft seat, sometimes found in older cars, or sitting on a pillow, or any other soft cushion or soft booster. In addition, if the shoulder belt is too low on the shoulder, a torso can twist during a crash and slide out from under the shoulder belt’s protection; if the shoulder belt is too high it is very dangerous for the passenger’s neck.
A common solution to achieve better seat belt positioning is to boost a child’s shoulders closer to the point where the seat belt will fit snugly over the shoulder and go diagonally across the torso, with the lap belt fitting across the upper thighs or hips. Booster seats do this quite well, but don’t always work well with safety features on newer cars.
Automobile manufacturers and engineers spend millions of dollars every year developing newer, more advanced safety features in cars. It is to our huge benefit to taking advantage of them whenever possible, but some booster seats can interfere with the following safety features:
- Pretensioner: A device that discharges when the car senses a crash, taking up slack in your seat belt to pull you back in the seat, allowing the seat belt mechanism to act much faster, thus restraining unnecessary forward movement and lessening crash forces (called G-force).
A booster seat can drastically limit the effectiveness of the pretensioner because the booster seat may position the lap belt too low on the thighs, and therefore too far from the hips. Only the hips will stop the lower body from moving forward during a crash. If the belt is not on the hips, the child will have to move forward before the seat belt starts working. The pretensioner is meant to get rid of the slack, but to be effective the lap belt needs to be positioned over the hips (preferably with entire belt surface) and not on the thighs. Otherwise, the child will move during a crash to the point where hips hit the belt. In a crash inches matter, and the bulk of a highback booster seat puts the child that much closer to the front seat. So does the height. Usually, the higher a child sits in a booster seat the closer the child is to the front seat.
- Load Limiter: A device that gradually releases the seat belt after the pretensioner has deployed. The load limiter is designed to better distribute crash forces. This means keeping the seat belt from damaging your chest by allowing your torso to move forward in a controlled manner. This also helps to avoid possible neck injuries.
- Side curtains: Roof-mounted airbags that inflate above the car doors and drop down like a curtain, designed to protect the head in side-impact crashes.
- Side-impact airbags: These are designed to cushion passengers from the force of a crash to the side of a vehicle, and deploy from the doors, the armrests, or both. When using side-impact airbags with a car seat or booster seat, check the automobile owner’s manual and your car seat manual for any restrictions about where to place the seat.
An Alternative to Booster Seats
Booster seats can be effective, but a 2008 study by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and its research partner found that restraint of 4 to 8-year-olds rose from 15 percent in 1999 to 63 percent. But that still left more than a third of children, 37 percent, unrestrained. The study also found that use of booster seats did not enjoy the same growth, rising to only about 20 percent for 8-year-olds, which means the rest of the restrained 8-year-olds were wearing seat belts that were too big for them. Children wearing seat belts alone which are too big are not receiving the full protection a safety belt can offer. Indeed, they may even be damaged by a safety belt in a crash.
There are several reasons children who outgrow car seats don’t use booster seats:
- Booster seats are bulky and hard to transport, especially on flights.
- The bulk makes them hard to move from car to car.
- The bulk may make it difficult for all three passengers in a back seat to use the seat belts comfortably, especially if there’s more than one booster seat.
- Children carpooling to after-school activities might not have a booster seat available.
- On a short ride, the caregiver may make a decision not to bother with a bulky booster seat since it is going to be a short ride on well-known road. However, statistics show that the majority of accidents happen on rides close to home. And even a minor accident can be serious for an unrestrained or improperly restrained child.
- Older children might see booster seats as little kids’ seats, and not want to ride there.
A Safe Alternative to Booster Seats
The solution to all these problems is a child car seat alternative which adjusts the seat belt to the wearer, rather than boosting the wearer to fit the seat belt.
- ClypX adjusts the seat belt to the wearer by clipping one end to the lap belt near the end bracket, where the seatbelt comes out of the cartridge, the other end to the shoulder strap, and tightening to secure the shoulder strap properly so it holds the shoulder and moves across the torso without leaving slack.
- ClypX allows lap belts to be positioned with its entire surface directly across the child’s hips, reducing possible slack and giving more belt area to grab the child’s hips.
- Because it clips onto the seat belt ClypX is highly portable, easy for a carpooling child to take from one car to another.
- ClypX is also light enough to fit in a child’s backpack, a much less bulky alternative to a booster seat.
- ClypX adheres to the US government’s FMVSS 213 standards for child restraint systems, and to European standards, and is crash-tested with an excellent safety record, staying 25 percent or more below the threshold required by the tests.
- Because ClypX allows passengers to ride directly on the car’s seat, the child’s head is further away from a possible crash into front seat, and the center of gravity is much lower than in a bulky booster, which has produced better results during tests of crash forces.
- There’s no bulky booster seat to limit how well the pretensioner works, or interfere with the deployment of side-impact airbags.
- ClypX doesn’t interfere with any popular car safety features like pretensioners, load limiters, side airbags or side curtains. ClypX actually almost seamlessly integrates with them.
A Few Words of Caution
- Bulky clothes can compress in a crash, leaving extra slack in the seat belt. If your child is wearing a winter coat, for example, try putting the seat belt, or at least the lap belt, under the coat. This applies to booster seats as well.
- What is true for car seats and booster seats is also true for ClypX: Make sure the seat belt is not twisted anywhere.
- While ClypX is designed to adjust the seat belt to your child’s body, that doesn’t mean it’s safe for children under age 13 to sit in the front seat. The passenger side front seat airbags built into most cars are not designed for people shorter than 57 inches (4’9”).
- This is especially true for infants. Infants should never ride in the front seat with the airbag turned on. An airbag deploying against a rear-facing car seat will strike the car seat and injure the child, pushing the car seat and the infant into the back of the car’s seat with great force.
- If you have to ride an older child in the front seat, make sure the seat is as far back as it can go.
- For greatest safety, children under age 13 should not sit in the front seat.
If you’re ready for a safe alternative to booster seats, that works with advanced safety features, give ClypX a look today.