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The local distributor for a new car restraint says the device could possibly prevent neck, spinal and abdominal injuries that can occur from automobile accidents and from current car restraints.

Inventors of "Safe Rider" created the device for children too small for autos' built-in restraints and too big for toddler car seats. The restraint features over-the-shoulder dual straps, which buckle at the crotch. It attaches to the lap belt - which in turn is buckled - and has a rigid metal backing board.The device, which has a lifetime guarantee, includes Velcro fasteners to connect the shoulder restraints so children can't slip out of them.

According to Laroy Hooley, who began selling the device locally last December, Safe Rider will help children avoid the "envelope effect" during an accident - bending over dangerously at the waist when lap restraints are employed.

"It's a built-in shock absorber," Hooley said.

Ninety percent of automobile-accident injuries suffered by children still occur despite the child's wearing a lap restraint, Hoo-ley said. However, he doesn't discourage the use of lap belts or current child seat restraints by families who can't afford Safe Rider.

"Anything is better than no restraint at all," he said. "We just think Safe Rider is much better than what's currently out there."

If preliminary safety studies are any indication of Safe Rider's effectiveness, Hooley could be right. The device has been approved for use by the Texas Highway Patrol and performed well in tests administered by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Typical lap restraint feature "30 square inches taking the full impact of the crash," Hooley said. Safe Rider has more than 80 square inches of protection, in three different areas, he added.

But the device does allow for mobility during travel, and children can actually lie down while wearing it. The device simply "snaps back into place during a possible collision," Hooley said.

It also allows the lap restraint to take the initial impact, after which the force of the collision is absorbed through the metal backboard, which is slightly convex.

Children wearing Safe Rider "are going to move some, but this actually prevents them from taking the full impact of a crash," he said. "It's just so much safer."

Despite the fact that he has only sold 30 of the devices so far, Hoo-ley is looking to spread the word about Safe Rider, including his current efforts to receive an endorsement from the Utah Highway Patrol.

The device comes in two sizes: small, for children between 30 and 50 pounds, and large, for children between 50 and 70 pounds. It costs $65 from either Hooley or Gene Harvey Chevrolet in American Fork.

Those interested in purchasing Safe Rider or in distributing it can contact Hooley at either 768-3990 or 768-4457.