Booster Seats Protect Children

by : Peter Kent

A child who has recently outgrown their child restraint seat should not go straight to a regular seat and seatbelt. Seatbelts are not designed for an child who weighs 80 pounds and will not provide the type of protection that a child needs to stay restrained. A booster seat that meets federal safety standards is necessary to help the child make the transition from a child's car seat to the regular car seat.

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. An adult-sized seat belt alone is 60 percent less effective than a booster seat.

A lap belt can ride up on the stomach and the neck and face can be covered by the shoulder belt on a small child passenger. 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. A booster seat accomplishes this by lifting the child so that they are tall enough that the shoulder and lap belt fit appropriately. A lap belt should sit low on the body, be across the top of the thighs and not cover the stomach. The shoulder belt should come across the middle of the chest and collarbone or shoulder. 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. A child who is smaller than average may need to sit in a booster seat until they are ten years old or older.

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.