On September 30th, my daughter will turn four years old. I am in complete denial about this. Ava, however, has been anxiously awaiting her birthday and has been counting down the days for the last month. She’s looking forward to this particular birthday not only because it will include a Pink Poodle-themed birthday party; but because it means that she can FINALLY say goodbye to her car seat and transition into a booster seat!
It is recommended by the CDC and NHTSA that children remain in their forward-facing car seats until they’ve outgrown them. For most children that is until 40 lbs (as long as the car seat goes up that high in weight; and please note, today many car seats actually go up to 60 lbs or more- so please be aware of your car seat’s height and weight recommendations). The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends keeping kids in a seat with a harness as long as possible and at least until age four. Ava’s weighed 40-lbs since July and my husband put her in a booster seat in his car just a few weeks ago. But I’ve been telling her that she cannot go in a booster seat in my car until she actually turns four-years old (and I mean it to the minute! So on 9/30 at 5:27 am).
My husband thinks I’m over-reacting and truth be told, he often thinks I over-react when it comes to safety issues. He’s much more of a “we didn’t have these rules when we were kids and we turned out okay” type of thinker than I am. And although I know it’s easy to over-analyze and worry about our children these days, I also think it’s important to do whatever we can to provide the safest environment for our children.
Current law in Massachusetts (it was most recently revised in April 2008) states, “A passenger in a motor vehicle on any way who is under the age of 8 shall be fastened and secured by a child passenger restraint, unless such passenger measures more than 57 inches in height. The child passenger restraint shall be properly fastened and secured according to the manufacturer’s instructions.” That means that until a child is 8 years old or 4’9″, they should be in a booster seat. This height requirement is in place, because until they reach it, the lap/shoulder belt combination in cars won’t fit them properly. Booster seats raise children so that the seat belt fits them tight enough to prevent being thrown from the seat (or even worse, from the car) during a collision. Research done in 2003 through the NHTSA found that booster seats reduce injury risk by 59% compared to safety belts alone, for children ages 4 to 7 years.
As I mentioned in my blog earlier this week on car seat check points, I encourage parents to utilize this service when installing booster seats as well as car seats. But the two most basic things to ensure are that: (1) the lap belt lies low and snug across your child’s upper thighs and (2) the shoulder belt crosses the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder.
For more information on booster seats, please see:
Teresa Stewart, MS MPH
Associate Program Lead for CPR and First Aid