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Booster Seats Protect Children

Dec 6, 2007
When a child outgrows or "graduates" from a child safety seat, they are not ready to just hop in the car, put on a safety belt, and go. Safety belts are designed for a 165-pound adult. There is an important transition to make ' using a "belt positioning" (not a "shield" style) booster seat that meets federal safety standards.

Unfortunately, most of the 20 million children in the U.S. who should be in a booster seat in the car are not. While the worst-case scenario is for a child to be in an automobile unrestrained, having the wrong restraint can also pose a serious risk.

A child wearing a poorly-fitted adult safety belt can sustain serious, life-threatening injuries, including being ejected from a vehicle during a crash. Using just a seat belt, kids are 3.5 time more likely to suffer significant injury, and four times more likely to suffer a head injury. Booster seats are 60 percent more effective than seat belts alone.

With child passengers, lap belts ride up on the abdomen, and shoulder belts can cut across the face or neck. Children are not only safer, but can see better and are more comfortable in a booster seat that allows the safety belt to fit and function as intended. Booster seats do this by raising a child to a height so that a lap and shoulder belt fit properly. The lap belt should ride low, below the hip bones and across the top of the thighs, not on the stomach, and the shoulder belt should cross the middle of the chest and shoulder or collarbone. This helps protect the internal organs, spine and head from injury in the event of a car crash.

Does Your Child Need a Booster Seat?

How do you know if your child needs to be in a booster seat? Children who have outgrown a child safety seat should ride in a booster seat until they are at least eight years old, or four feet, nine inches tall. Generally, kids from four to eight years old, and from 40 to 80 pounds, need to be in a booster seat. Some smaller children may need a booster seat until age ten or longer.

Indicators that a booster seat is needed include an inability to sit all the way back against the seat back; an inability to bend the knees comfortably at the edge of the seat; a safety belt that does not cross the child's shoulder between the neck and arm; a lap belt that does not sit low across the abdomen, touching the hips and thighs; and an inability for the child to be comfortable and stay seated like this for the entire trip.

Are Booster Seats Really Safe?

Many parents and caregivers incorrectly believe that booster seats may not be safe. Concerns include that booster seats are loose fitting and unstable that might not adequately restrain a child in a crash, but these are unfounded.

Children should stay in their car safety seat as long as possible before moving to a booster seat. Once your child reaches the upper weight or height allowed for your seat, as listed on the label and instruction manual for the seat), or his/her ears have reached the top of the seat, it's time to move to the booster seat.

Booster seats, used in the back seat, are held in place by the seatbelt, and used with the lap and shoulder belts, just as an adult uses them. They are not tethered to the car like a child car seat. High-back and backless booster seats are available, and should be used until your child can correctly fit in lap and shoulder seat belts. Never use a booster seat with just a lap belt, as serious injury may result.

If your child was injured as the result of an ineffective car seat, you may have a legal claim. Contact an unsafe products or car crash attorney immediately for more information.
About the Author
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