Our daughter’s elementary school was a place where parents would park their cars and then walk children into school. However, they recently opened an optional dropoff line. I’m grateful that it’s optional because some days, getting my kiddo out of the car takes quite a while. There are stray Lego pieces to grab, snacks to throw into her backpack, and the not-that-rare need to slither out of her booster, then ask for help when she’s stuck in an unwieldy position. So we need that time.
Each year since 2009, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released their IIHS booster ratings. These ratings are based primarily on the fit of the 6 year old crash test dummy. Fit is the best indication of performance: regardless of how many optional features a booster seat has, if it doesn’t place the vehicle seat belt properly on the child, it can’t do its job.
Somehow that little mewling Little to whom you gave birth only yesterday has grown and grown, and now you’re wondering if it’s time to do away with the booster all together.
Parents always worry if their child is in their harnessed seat correctly. Is the harness at the right height? Properly tightened? Chest clip on the chest? No one thinks about boosters much though. Put kid in, buckle, and go. Many boosters are used incorrectly though and in turn do not provide the proper protection.
Last year, we discussed the science behind why rear facing is safer than forward facing for toddlers and children through four years of age. In this edition of the Science Junkie’s Guide, we will look at booster seats and why they are important for children all the way through puberty. We have also briefly touched on how boosters provide a better fit for children who are nearing the legal age or height to no longer need a booster seat.
It’s a question that comes up with invariable regularity for a CPST: when is my child ready to move from a 5 point harness to a belt positioning booster? Since each child and each situation is different, we’re not armed with one set answer; instead there are there are a few things to consider in making this move.
Ever wonder what that funny looking strap and plastic piece are that comes with your booster? It is called a shoulder belt positioning clip and is used to keep the shoulder belt at the correct position when using a backless booster. The fabric loop attaches to the bottom of the booster and the red clip attaches to the shoulder belt above the shoulder. Make sure to read your car seat manual to find out exactly where to attach it and when to use it!
Fortunately, we know that the law is not enough to keep children safe. NHTSA, Safe Kids, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that children between 8 and 12 years old continue to use a booster until they fit the belt correctly alone, usually around 4’9″.