Booster seats save kids' lives - if they're used

Booster seats save kids' lives - if they're used
AUBURN, Wash. - A little girl from Auburn is banged up and bruised - but alive today - because she was properly buckled into her booster seat.

Six-year-old Dominique Smith was in the car with her father, Joshua, last week when he swerved to avoid an oncoming car and hit a light pole.

"She ended up suffering a laceration to her right kidney as well as some bumps and bruises to her face," says her father, Joshua Smith.

But she's already back in school. Now Joshua Smith wants to share his story with every parent of a young child.

"If she wouldn't have been in that booster seat it could have been very bad. The doctor told me that she easily could have broken her neck. It could have been a lot worse," he says.

Booster seats are for kids who've outgrown a car seat but aren't big enough to use the grown-up seat belts.

"The booster seat effectively raises up the child and makes the child's body appear more adult-like to the car so that all of the safety systems in that vehicle that are designed to save your life can work the way they were designed," says Dr. Beth Ebel, a pediatrician and director of the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center.

She reminds us that booster seats are recommended for children about 4 to 10 years old, who weigh at least 40 pounds and are under 4-feet-9-inches.

"The booster seat puts the lap belt low across the child's waist, and it keeps the shoulder belt in position to keep the body from moving too far forward," says Dr. Ebel. "Those are really important at reducing the risk of serious head injury, which is the reason most people die in car crashes. It also reduces the risk of spine and abdominal injury."

Dr. Ebel met with Joshua Smith when he and his daughter Dominique were at Harborview.

"I always shake the hands of a parent who was using a car seat because most everybody has one now, but a lot of people don't use it on every single trip every single time," she says. "And he told me his kids always do, and as a consequence he doesn't get a lot of griping from them about using it because they just expect that it's going to be used. So it's good parenting, too, to be consistent."

Booster seats are easy to use and easy to move from one vehicle to another. Because the majority of crashes happen close to home, parents and other caregivers need to use them every single time. Kids should not be wearing their school backpacks when on the booster seat.

Remember, the fine for not using a car safety seat is $124 per child.