Question: How much does my child have to weigh before she can get out of her car seat and just use a seat belt?
Answer: Actually, that transition is based on age, not weight. A.S. 28.05.095(b) states anyone less than 4 years old must be secured in an approved car seat. From 4 to 16, the child must be secured in a child safety seat, or by a seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their size.
If your child is 4 or older but still fits in her car seat well, that is probably the safest place for her. If she is too big for her seat, but too small to be restrained by the seat belt, I recommend a booster seat. They are not very expensive, and they make it much more comfortable for her to wear her seat belt.
I see far too many kids (and adults for that matter) wearing their seat belts with the shoulder belt behind their backs. This makes the seat belt almost useless. If your car stops suddenly (as when you hit a moose or another car), the torso whips forward at high speed while the pelvis stays put. You can imagine what this does to the insides, back and neck, not to mention the head and face if they hit the dash or seat in front of them.
Children are much safer in a booster seat so the shoulder strap can hold their torso in place.
As the driver, you can be stopped by the police for not having someone under 16 properly secured, and the penalty is $60 and 2 points on your license.
If you have questions that you would like to ask a trooper, please send them to: Alaska State Troopers, 4060 Heath St., Homer, AK 99603. Or you can e-mail them to Chad_Goeden @dps.state.ak.us.
The Alaska State Troopers remind you to always wear your seat belt. It's the law.
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