Unintentional injuries, primarily those resulting from car accidents, are the leading cause of death among children nationwide. On November 18, in recognition of National Injury Prevention Day, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Injury Prevention & Research Center gave away free car booster seats at the office of Belmont-Cragin Alderman Villegas. “The event was a great success,” commented the center’s director Amy Hill, sharing that 123 booster seats were distributed and that 12 families with younger children to were referred to car seat education classes. In the past year alone, the program sent over 620 car seats directly to the homes of families.
Booster seats, which are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing seats, are a potentially life-saving stage in child passenger safety that parents often skip. “When compared to seat belts alone, booster seats reduce the risk of serious injury by 45% for children between 4-8 years of age,” shares Dr. Kareen Sheehan, a Lurie Children’s emergency room physician and Medical Director of the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities, the hub for Lurie Children’s community-focused initiatives.
All children should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits them properly, usually when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height; most children will need a booster until they are 10-12 years old. Children no longer need to use a booster seat when the vehicle’s seat belt fits them properly, which is when the lap belt is across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt is across the center of the shoulder and chest (not on the neck/face or off the shoulder). Even when caregivers do use a booster seat, just under half of them are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness. To help ensure proper use, the booster seat giveaway event included car seat safety education and installation guidance.
In addition to the booster seat giveaway event, Lurie Children’s joined trauma centers and community advocates around the country in shining a green light to build awareness about National Injury Prevention Day. Other participating Chicago landmarks included the Willis Tower, the John Hancock Building, the American Dental Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and Prudential Plaza buildings.