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Motivational messages according to children's ages so that they want to be be properly strapped in when in the car

Motivational messages according to children's ages so that they want to be be properly strapped in when in the car


My eight-year-old daughter doesn't want to use the child restraint system. What can I say to her to make her change her mind? What can I do to make her want to be strapped in properly? The US (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA), through Safercar, has provided us with a number of motivational messages suitable for different ages.

When talking about little children, under eight years old, among the possible reasons for them not wanting to travel in child seats are that they are uncomfortable and that they get bored and so don't want to be stuck in the back seat in a child restraint system. This is where we have to make the journey seem more attractive and get the child to become familiar with the child seat. We must start by setting an example and explaining to them that they must travel correctly strapped into their child seat just like we have to fasten our seat belt. A good option is to make it into a game and keep them entertained throughout the journey.

Of course, we come across a bigger problem when the child is over eight years old and does not want to travel in the child restraint system. As the NHTSA points out, “pre-teens go through various stages of development - social, cognitive and emotional - that provide us with a useful perspective of the things that have significance for them and that are motivational”. With this in mind, some motivational messages have been developed for them to want to travel in a well-secured CRS or seat belt.

Children from 8 to 12 years old: We are talking here about primary school-age children. Here we have to put the emphasis on the consequences and the short-term advantages of traveling in a well-secured child seat. One option is to allow them to take one of their electronic devices if they travel securely strapped in.

NHTSA Messages:

  • “After you strap yourself in you can play with your [electronic device]”.
  • “If you don't fasten your seat belt we won't be going to [fun place]. Either fasten your seat belt or we stay at home; you choose”.
  • “I know we do this [short] journey every day, but the majority of fatal crashes happen near to the victims' homes”.
  • “We might be driving slowly but the majority of fatal crashes happen with people driving at less than 40 miles an hour” (about 64 kilometers an hour).

Children that are 13 or 14 years old: In these cases we are already talking about using a seat belt. Secondary school children are capable of being rebellious when it comes to being correctly strapped into the car. On this subject, The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration highlights that one motivation might be compliance with the law i.e. the possibility of being spotted by the police.

It is important for them to understand what the law says on this subject and why we need to obey it.

NHTSA Messages:

  • “If a policeman notices that your seat belt is unfastened, I'm going to get a fine, and that money will come out of your savings”.
  • “The majority of fatal crashes take place within about 25 miles of the home and and at speeds of less than 40 miles an hour” (a distance of approximately 32 kilometers and a speed of 64 kilometers an hour).

Every message needs to be personalized according to each child's stage of development and their personality. Little by little, we get to learn what works and we can adjust the message as the children grow.

It is vitally important not to give in. We must never start the car if somebody is not strapped in properly. Of course, we must be consistent and set an example. If I'm wearing one, you will too.

Below is the ‘Never give up until they buckle up’ campaign, by the AD Council and NHTSA:

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