EDISON – A new pilot program, designed to help children understand at an early age the life-saving importance of properly buckling-up when riding in a vehicle, was unveiled last week by traffic safety and law enforcement officials.
According to Division of Highway Traffic Safety Director Pam Fischer, the interactive program highlights the proper use of booster seats, typically used by children under the age of eight who have outgrown the limits of child seats with harnesses.
“While many educational efforts focus on helping parents and caregivers better understand the proper use of child safety restraints in vehicles, this unique program is designed to engage youngsters in ensuring their own safety on New Jersey’s roads,” said Fischer.
New Jersey’s booster seat law establishes a minimum standard (children must use child restraints and boosters until they are at least 8 years old or weigh 80 pounds). Once children outgrow their forward-facing car seats they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest, which may not coincide with a specific age, weight or height.
When children outgrow their booster seats, they should be restrained with seat belts in the back seat until at least 13 years of age. At that time, they may ride in either the front seat or back seat, but must always be properly restrained. (New Jersey’s current primary seat belt law requires passengers under the age of 18, regardless of seating position, to always buckle-up.)
“The program provides an opportunity for children to experience first-hand when a booster seat should be used, and how a seat belt should fit,” Fischer said. “Many children are moved from a booster seat into an adult seat belt when they meet the guidelines set in the law, even though the belt doesn’t fit correctly. By providing an actual demonstration of what a properly fitting seat belt and booster seat should feel like, the children can gain a better understanding of how to protect themselves from potentially severe injuries in a crash.”
“Children in this age group need to know why they should use boosters or seat belts,” added Joseph Colella, the occupant protection instructor helping to develop the program. “Education empowers them to protect themselves when faced with mixed messages or pressure from their peers.”
The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety is working with local traffic safety organizations, schools and law enforcement agencies to offer the program to youngsters throughout the state. Additional information on child passenger safety, including a list of permanent fitting stations that parents and caregivers may visit throughout the year for free assistance with their child seats, is available on the division’s website, at www.nj.gov/oag/hts/CPS-week_resources.html.
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