Boosters and the back seat:  Car seat safety is important for kids of all ages!

Kathy Kiley, BSN, RN, CPEN

Nurse Educator

Give me a boost!

When most kids turn 8 they think they can graduate out of their booster seat.  The fact is that most children don’t fit properly in a vehicle’s seat belt until they are 10 or 11.  Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the height or weight limits allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer.  Then it’s time to travel in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.

Using a belt-positioning booster seat keeps your child safe by helping the seat belt fit properly over the stronger parts of the body.  Seats are available with and without back portions.  Whatever seat you choose, be sure your child fits in it properly:  the lap belt should lie low and snug over the thighs, and the shoulder belt should cross the shoulder without touching the neck, then cross the middle of the chest.  One of the benefits of using a booster with a high back is that it has a built-in seat belt guide to prevent the belt from touching the neck.

It’s the law!

In Massachusetts the child passenger safety law states that all children must be secured in a federally approved car seat until they are 8 years or 4 foot 9 inches.  Most states have child passenger safety laws with booster seat provisions which help reduce injuries and deaths by requiring children who have outgrown car seats to use booster seats through age 8 or until the seat belt fits properly.   A study of five states with booster seat provisions in their law showed a decreased rate of children who sustained fatal or incapacitating injuries by 17%.

20% of booster seats are misused. 

Don’t move into or out of a booster seat too early!   Use a booster until at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and between 80 and 100 pounds.  Most kids will be between ages 8 to 12 years old, not the 8 years of age required by law.  Don’t move a child out of a car seat and into a booster before they are big enough:  this causes unsafe belt positioning which could cause injury.  Do not let the child put the shoulder belt under their arm or behind their back.

The back seat is safer!

The back seat is safest for kids!  Children seated in a booster seat in the back seat of the car are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash than children using a seat belt alone.  Keep your child in the backseat through age 12.

Unbuckled in the back seat

Rear seat passengers are 3x more likely to die in a crash if unbelted!  Talk with everyone who drives your kids so they understand that booster seat use is a must when your child is in their car.