Child in booster seat

A team of Pediatrics researchers at EVMS hopes that their dramatic new video will alert parents to a potential tragedy: not using booster seats for children who need them. 

Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for children. Evidence shows that booster seats save lives and reduce injuries. “But one of the biggest issues we see is children transitioning out of booster seats too early,” says Kelli England Will, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics at EVMS and a nationally known expert in the field of child safety. 

Virginia law requires children under age 8 to be restrained in a car seat or booster seat. But the law can be misleading because it is only a minimum guideline, Dr. Will explains. “In fact,” she says, “most children will need to be in booster seats long past the age of 8.” 

Dr. Will and her team received a Highway Safety Grant from Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles to produce the video and related educational materials, which are part of a comprehensive “Boost ‘em in the Back Seat” awareness campaign. The new video is a remake of a 10-year-old video also produced by Dr. Will and her team through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Grant. That original video increased booster seat use and was seen by more than 500,000 families in its first few years. 

Child safety advocates, including Dr. Will, are concerned because even at slow speeds, automobile crash forces can be the equivalent of falling out of a third-story window. Using a booster seat with a lap/shoulder belt instead of just a safety belt reduces children’s injury by as much as 45 percent. That’s because seat belts fit poorly on children’s bodies, increasing injury to soft and vulnerable parts of the body, such as the stomach and neck. 

Booster seats raise children higher so the safety belt fits over the body’s strong, bony hips and chest. A Safety Belt Fit Test helps parents determine if a child can transition out of a booster seat. 

The new video was produced in conjunction with Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, with assistance from Portsmouth Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services and dozens of other local safety professionals.