SALT LAKE CITY — Primary Children's Medical Center has rolled out a new campaign and website in hopes of educating Utah parents on the dangers of putting children in adult-size seat belts instead of booster seats.
The website, BoostTil8.org, features an emotional video about Kyle Sorensen, who sustained a paralyzing spinal cord injury in a 2004 car crash just days after turning 8.
Kyle and his mother, Lisa, were returning home from a doctor's appointment when Lisa blacked out and crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle. Kyle was not properly restrained.
"Kyle was involved in a collision where the seat belt itself may have caused some injuries to him, "Dr. Hallie Keller with Primary Children's Medical Center said. "He wasn't thrown out of the car, but he sustained a fracture to his neck."
He was in a coma for three days, and when he woke up, he was paralyzed from the neck down.
Primary Children's featured Kyle's story Monday at a safety summit, hoping it will prevent similar tragedies.
Utah law requires children up to age 8 to ride in a booster seat, but the new campaign encourages booster seat use until the adult seat belt fits properly.
So when is it safe for a child to be put in a booster seat? When the child reaches 4 feet 9 inches and 80 to 100 pounds, use the Safety Belt Fit Test to determine if the child is big enough to use the adult seat belt without a booster. It's suggested parents use the Safety Belt Fit Test on every child under 13.
This new campaign comes on the heels of new child safety seat guidelines released in March by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The guidelines recommend that most children will need a booster seat until they are at least 80 pounds, have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.
"That may be an 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year-old child still riding in a booster seat because the adult seat belt does not fit correctly," said Janet Brooks, a Child Advocacy Manager at Primary Children's Medical Center.
Children should also ride in the rear of a vehicle until they are 13 years old.
The new guidelines also recommend that toddlers should face the rear until at least age 2 and 35 pounds. The 2002 policy advised facing the rear only until age 1.
The website also features a question-and-answer section, safety tips and a list of locations where parents can go and get help with car seats and boosters.
The Safety Belt Fit Test
Have your child sit in a back seat with their bottom and back against the vehicle's seat back. Do the child's knees be at the seat's edge? If yes, go on. If not, the child must stay in a booster seat.
Buckle the seat belt. Does the lap belt stay low on the hips? If yes, go on. If it rests on the soft part of the stomach, the child must stay in a booster seat.
Look at the shoulder belt. Does it lay on the collarbone and shoulder? If yes, go on. If it is on the face or neck, the child must remain in a booster seat.
Can the child maintain the correct seating position with the shoulder belt on the shoulder and the lap belt low across the hips? If yes, the child has passed the Safety Belt Fit Test. If no, the child should return to a booster seat and retest in a month.