DEAR ABBY: What do you think of a grandmother who has her 7-year-old grandson sit in a baby car seat when she's driving? The boy weighs 65 pounds and is 4 1/2 feet tall. His parents don't want to cause a rift with her, as she helps them after school. He looks ridiculous and must feel embarrassed in front of his friends. Should relatives intervene? -- GRANNY'S NEIGHBOR
DEAR NEIGHBOR: I took your question to a public affairs specialist with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He said that children through the age of 12 should always ride in the back seat. He also reminded me that seat belts were designed for adults, not children.
According to the NHTSA, the 7-year-old should be in a "booster" seat. A booster seat positions the seat belt so it fits properly over the shoulder and chest -- the strongest parts of the child's body -- so it won't cut him or her on the neck or face in case of an accident.
The NHTSA used to recommend that children 8 to 12 years old or 4 feet 9 inches and under use a booster seat. However, it now recommends that parents visit its website, www.nhtsa.gov, to choose a correct seat. Click on the child safety section, and you'll find an area titled "Which Car Seat Is the Right One for Your Child." There are also videos in this section showing parents how to install the seats correctly.
The recommendations are national and do not vary among the states. And yes -- this information should be shared with the child's parents and the grandmother in order to ensure the boy's safety.