But because of a law set to take effect in August, the Harris' will need to buy a new seat for Brian.
"This weekend, we'll probably go out and purchase something new for him since it will be mandated now," John Harris said.
In early May, the Missouri General Assembly passed legislation to require children 7 and younger to be in safety or booster seats while a vehicle is in motion. Currently, the law applies to those under 4.
But, there are some exceptions. For example, Stephanie Kasting's son Ross, 6, will not have to sit in a booster because he qualifies the weight requirement for exemption. "He sits in a seat belt just fine," Kasting said.
Exemptions apply to children who weigh more than 80 pounds or are taller than 4 feet 9 inches.
Brenda Bowman, RN, CEN and coordinator of Safe Kids Cape Girardeau Area, which covers 17 counties in Missouri, said she is hoping to see good results from the legislation.
"What we see in children in that 4- to 8-year-old range is that seatbelts are made for adults -- they're not made for children," she said. The booster seats have been shown to lower injury by 59 percent for those ages, Bowman added.
The legislation has some children complaining they have to "go back into a baby seat," Bowman said. But, she has been persuading the youth it is a good law, which helps them see outside. "It's not a baby seat, it just boosts them," she said.
Harris said his son is one of these children who doesn't want to go back to a boosters seat. "He's got that mentality where he doesn't think he needs it because he's older," Harris said. "We're trying to tell him it will prevent any injuries, help him see out and make it to where the seatbelt fits him more comfortably."
Uncomfortable seatbelts can be cause for injury in wrecks. Many children place the shoulder strap behind them, "setting them up for all kinds of abdominal and spinal injuries if they are in a crash," Bowman said.
Harris, who was a paramedic for 10 years, is all too aware of the dangers associated with not wearing a seat belt. He worked a van accident in New Madrid when his 13-year-old daughter, Leslie, was an infant, and recalls a 6- or 7-year-old child being ejected from a van. His booster seat was later found beneath all of the luggage in the 15-passenger van.
Not only do the seats keep children safer, they aren't too expensive, either. Most low-back boosters will range from $15 to $20; and high-back boosters, encouraged in vehicles without headrests or high back seats, run $18 to $30, Bowman said.
No matter what the age, car seats are frequently installed incorrectly. Nationally, seven of 10 car seats are incorrectly installed, Bowman said. But from checking car seat installation in Southeast Missouri, she thinks the number here is higher. "In the area that we cover, we see more like a 95 percent misuse," she said.
A common misuse of car seats is that parents will use both a seat belt and latch system to secure the seat. "They think 'if they're both good, if i use both it must be better,'" Bowman said. But, this isn't the case, and actually more dangerous.
Another repeating problem the Safe Kids staff observes is that the seat is not secured tightly enough. "You don't want the seat to move more than one inch at a time," Bowman said.
Additionally, safety seats should be in the back seat, since air bags are located in close proximity of the from seat, she added.
Help is available for parents who need a second opinion. "There's a lot of different areas you can actually go to get seats checked," Bowman said.
She suggested visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Web site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov to look up tips or nearby fitting stations. The Missouri Department of Transportation in Sikeston, although not listed on the site, is working to become a fitting station, she said.
Parents may also call the Safe Kids office at (573)651-5185 to schedule an appointment to get their child's safety seat checked.