I was doing it again; talking out loud to myself in my car about other drivers. “Why isn’t that kid in their car seat?” I mumble. My daughter sitting safe in her own booster seat in the backseat of my truck asks who I am talking to. “That driver in the red car didn’t have their child buckled in their car seat” I tell her. My seven-year-old sits shocked in the back…” That’s not safe!” she exclaims. “I know baby; she should be buckled up” I tell her.
You will want to keep reading if you:
- have young children,
- transport children under age 18 in a vehicle, or;
- wish to avoid penalties for failing to follow Nebraska law.
How It Used To Be…
In my childhood we often sat in the bed of a pickup truck rolling down the dirt road without a second thought. If you go back even farther to my father’s childhood, he remembers they would stick six children and two adults in a five passenger car (clearly the math does not add up). My dad talks about riding in the back window ledge or sitting on pillows to see up and over the dashboard while sitting in the front seat. You would think the need to add height would be a clue the child shouldn’t be sitting up front; don’t even get me started about the back window — my how times have changed. Many cars now sound audible warnings and flash lights reminding you to secure your seatbelt. We now have digital signs over highways reminding us to “buckle up” for safety.
But, What About Our Children?
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, road injuries are the leading cause of unintentional deaths to children in the United States. Nebraska does have laws which mandate protection of children in cars:
- Children birth to age 6 must be secured correctly in a federally-approved child safety seat.
- Infants should be placed in a rear-facing infant or convertible car seat in the backseat of the vehicle.
- Toddlers can be turned forward facing (still in the backseat) and should be in a five-point harness until the child reaches the limits for height and weight of the seat.
- Booster seats are used when children outgrow the five-point harness. Booster seats can be tricky. These seats should be used until a child is 4 feet 9 inches tall or 57 inches. Fifty-seven inches is the average height of an 11-year-old.
I know, you’re thinking your 11-year-old would never want to sit in a booster seat that long. The bottom line is booster seats help a seatbelt fit properly. The seatbelt should fit snugly across the upper thighs — not across the stomach and the shoulder belt should not cross the neck or face. Parents and caregivers should also ensure children under the age of 12 ride only in the backseat of vehicle.
Licensed child care providers are required to take transportation training if they transport children on behalf of their employer. Providers must complete the “Safe Kids Buckle Up” program within 90 days of hire and repeat the training every 5 years.
Car seat installation can be tricky. You should refer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions as well as your vehicle’s owner’s manual for guidance on the proper installation of your child safety seat. Lancaster County has a couple child safety seat inspection stations you can visit to see if your car seat is installed correctly and learn how to properly secure a child into the seat. Visit Safe Kids Nebraska to see their calendar for car seat check events — appointments are required.
Nebraska law mandates driver and front seat passengers must wear their seat belts. Nebraska has defined this as a secondary law — this means you cannot be cited for not wearing a seat belt unless you have already been cited for another violation. The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt is $25. However, children up to the age of 6 are required by law to be in approved child safety seats. Anyone in violation of this can be cited, even if they are not cited for anything else.
Be a good role model for your child, buckle up every time you are in the car and talk with your child about why buckling up is important. Make sure your child is 57 inches tall before you banish the booster.
Jaci Foged, Extension Educator | The Learning Child
(Originally published in NebGuide by Foged. Republished here with permission.)
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