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Thread: Lap belt only seatbelt-safe for kids?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Northern Virginia

    Lap belt only seatbelt-safe for kids?

    Our current minivan has only a lap belt in the middle seat of the back row. Are these safe for kids? I generally don't let the kids sit there because I think they need the shoulder belt but not sure. Since our car is going to get more crowded in a few months this will be our only open seat for carpooling purposes.

    And while on the subject-when can kids sit in the front seat? DS is 10 and a lot of his friends do but I think they are supposed to be older than 10??

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    I don't know the answers to either of your questions but your local AAA office could probably tell you or your ped's office.

    You can also call this number and they will help you too: Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-DASH-2-DOT.
    Go for it!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    pacific northwest
    Our minivan is the same way with only a lap belt in the middle of the back. I vaguely recalled that you can't use it for kids and I looked this up in the FAQ of Oregon's child safety seat web site:

    What about cars with only lap belts in the back seat?
    Never use a booster seat with only a lap belt! Although two shoulder belts have been
    required in vehicle back seats since 1989, many families have cars with lap-only belts
    in the center or older cars with no rear shoulder belts. Here is the current list of seats
    ( January 2006) that provide a harness system beyond 40 pounds and the suggested
    retail price.

    In Oregon for riding in the front seat the law is:
    Children who weigh over 40 pounds must be properly secured in a booster seat until
    they are age 8 OR 4'9" in height.

    Children over 40 pounds should use a BPB [Belt-Positioning Booster] until the answer to all of these questions is yes:

    * Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
    * Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
    * Does the belt cross the collarbone between the neck and arm?
    * Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the hips and thighs?
    * Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

    Adapted from Partners for Child Passenger Safety and Safety Belt Safe USA.

    Editing to Add: The seems like there is a difference for when kids don't need a BPB and being able to ride in the front seat as I found this FAQ too:

    I only have lap belts in my back seat; can I put my child in the front seat?
    All children 12 and under should ride in the back seat of the vehicle. In an Interim
    Report from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - The State of Child Occupant
    Protection, they found that riding in the rear seat reduced the risk of injury by 33%.
    If you must have your child ride in the front seat, be sure they are restrained appropriately
    and that the vehicle seat is as far back from the dashboard as possible.

    I know the air bag warning (on the visor maybe) has a specific age listed for when kids can ride in the front seat so you might look at that too.


  4. #4
    My understanding is that it is recommended that children be at least 13 years old in order to sit in the front seat. The premise for this is that it is thought to be safer to sit in the back seat and also the front airbag issue (danger of front airbag deploying and seriously injuring a young child riding in front seat).

    Also, the following Q & A was taken from the Virginia DMV web-site:

    Question: I drive an older car with only a lap belt. Can I upgrade it to include a shoulder harness?

    Answer: Some manufacturers provide kits to upgrade from lap belts to lap/shoulder belts. Contact the manufacturer or dealership for more information. Lap/shoulder belts provide greater protection than lap belts alone.

    So, I would imagine that while a lap belt is safe--a lap/shoulder belt is safer...of course a lap belt can not safely be used with a booster seat.
    Last edited by VAcooker; 01-18-2008 at 09:49 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Northern Virginia
    So it seems like our choices are upgrade the belt if possible or get a new car!! I hate the idea of not being able to carpool.

    Thanks for the info!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    One Particular Harbour
    Quote Originally Posted by jellyben View Post

    And while on the subject-when can kids sit in the front seat? DS is 10 and a lot of his friends do but I think they are supposed to be older than 10??
    I have read several places (check AAP) that lap-belts only are not recommended.

    Not to hijack, but kids riding in the front seat really bug me! Everything I read states that kids 12 and under belong in the back and even after that it is safer to ride in the back. Yet everyday at school, I see kids of all ages riding in the front.

    Do those parents not know? (My ped always asks the kids where they sit at doctor visits). Or is it another case of "oh, but Johnny wants to sit up front!" so mom lets him? :mad:

    Okay, rant over.

  7. #7
    My kids won't be riding in the front seat anytime soon. My godmother recently lost one of her students - she was killed when the airbag went off in a fairly minor car accident.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    I have let older kids sit with just a lap belt in the middle of the back of my van on occasion because I haven't had a choice. I did just find this harness online though:

    It might be a good option for you if you need to do a lot of car pooling.

    My 10 year old DD thinks she should be able to ride in the front seat's not gonna happen. She gets so mad at me.

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