Letters to the Editor
Seat belts do not adequately protect children under 80 pounds
Most parents do not know that seat belts do not provide adequate protection for children who weigh less than 80 pounds. Seat belts—made to protect adults—often will not hold a child in the seat of will actually cause life-threatening injuries to the child even in minor crashes.
Unfortunately, parents are also often unaware of a simple device called a booster seat that raises the child up so the safety belt system will protect—rather than harm—their child in car crashes. Booster seats protect children because they properly position the belts across the shoulder and chest, and keep the lap belt low and snug across the hips and upper thighs. Kids weighing between 40-90 pounds belong in booster seats.
Marie Smith wishes she had known about booster seats. The safety device might have protected her son, Dillon, from the severe injuries he sustained in a crash. They thought he was “safely” buckled in with a shoulder mid lap belt—unfortunately, they were sorely misinformed. While Dillon recuperated at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, she wrote this letter for us to share with other parents.
Warning to all parents:
On November 11, 1999 my Ford Explorer rolled three times along 1-17 just south of the Carefree Highway. My sons Christopher, 28, and Dillon, 6, were with me. Christopher received minor injuries; my neck and arm were broken and my ear was nearly cut off; but my son, Dillon, was given little chance of survival.
Dillon was wearing his seat belt and riding in the back seat—where I felt he was safest. But when the Explorer rolled, Dillon slipped out of his seat belt, falling victim to the rough throws of the vehicle, until finally he was ejected from a side window and thrown nearly 60 feet. Witnesses thought a duffel bag had hurled from the car. Instead, it was my baby. He suffered a broken jaw bone, three skull fractures and a broken leg. The bones around his right eye were shattered. His body and brain were severely bruised. Dillon lived that first week at Phoenix Children’s Hospital on life support and the grace of God.
The suffering he endured makes me angry. If I had known that children should be in booster seats until they weigh 80 pounds and are 4 feet 9 inches tall, believe me, Dillon would have been in booster seat.
The law states that it is legal for a child who is 40 pounds and five years old to use a seat belt alone. But the law neglects to inform parents that their child can slip out of a seat belt or be severely injured by a seat belt—the very thing that is supposed to protect them, in an accident.
I strongly urge parents to be informed, alert and aware of this issue. No child is replaceable, nor should they suffer needlessly like Dillon did. Please get your child a booster seat and have properly strapped in so that this tragedy will not happen to you!
Signed for Dillon’s sake,
Dillon was released from Phoenix Children’s Hospital just before Christmas. Phoenix Children’s Hospital joins his family’s plea to protect your child from suffering the same injuries as Dillon.
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