Now I realize that many of the Seton Baby Talk readers are new moms, but I’m fairly certain that some veteran moms are also on-line with us. With this in mind I wanted to provide some information that applies to older children. For all the new moms that have young babies, just file this info in your brain for later – be sure and use the part of your brain that hasn’t been fried yet by late night feedings and diaper changing in the dark…whoever coined the term “pregnancy brain” was short-sighted. I’m convinced it should be “parenting brain”!
Did you know that the law regarding use of car seats changed recently in Texas? In the last legislative sessions, lawmakers strengthened our child passenger safety law, closing a gap for kids who have outgrown their car seats but are still too small to sit in a seat belt alone. Effective September 1, 2009 Texas now requires all children under age 8, unless they are 4’9” tall, to ride in a car seat or booster seat.
What is a booster seat, and how does it work?
The good news is that once you have survived the roughly four years of wrestling with car seat buckles sticky from ice cream drippings and harnesses that seem to twist only when it’s 104 degrees outside (have you ever had this happen where sweat is running off your face onto your child? I have.), you’ve reached the stage for booster seats, where things get a lot easier! In fact, some parents don’t believe it when I show them how to use a booster seat. A booster seat is simply a positioning device. It is used with the lap & shoulder belt in the vehicle. It works by “boosting” the child up so the lap & shoulder belts are positioned across the strongest parts of the child’s body. Without the boost, children don’t fit the adult-sized lap & shoulder belt properly. Booster seats close this gap and give children the necessary artificial height until they fit the belt correctly on their own, typically when they reach 4 feet 9 inches.
How do you use a booster seat?
Why Are Booster Seats So Important?
Sadly, car crashes remain the leading cause of death and acquired disability for children between the ages of 4 and 7. In a crash, 4-7 year old children secured by adult seat belts are likely to suffer serious head, spinal cord, and internal organ injuries. Booster seats reduce the risk of these injuries by 59%! The American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have long recommended belt-positioning booster seats for children who have outgrown child safety seats with harnesses. Many parents are not yet aware of the importance of belt-positioning booster seats in protecting their children. In fact, only about 6% of 4-7 year olds admitted to Dell Children’s in 2007 for injuries sustained in a car crash were using a booster seat! We know that many of their injuries could have been prevented.
According to Dr. Todd Maxson, Trauma Medical Director, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, “children need booster seats until the seat belt fits them properly. Without the booster seat, the seat belt can cause serious, even deadly, injuries during a car crash.” Dr. Maxson supports the new law because of his first hand experience with children who were injured while wearing an improperly fitting seat belt, which was the allowable under the old standards. Maxson says, “the patients I treat, who are restrained by a seat belt alone, suffer serious injuries. Parents were devastated when they learned that the law didn’t match the best practice. This new law now endorses the best practice and provides the appropriate amount of protection for children in crashes.”
Where can you get booster seats and how much do they cost?
There are two types of booster seats: “high-back” and “backless” (also referred to as “no-back” or “low-back”). Both booster seats pass Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and serve the same purpose: adding artificial height to the child so that the adult seat belt fits across the strongest part of the child’s body. Backless booster seats can be used when the vehicle seat has a headrest. When the vehicle seat does not have a headrest, a high-back booster should be used. Booster seat prices range from $12 - $45 typically. Both types are available at major retailers.
How do I know if my child is ready to ride without a booster seat?
Vehicle seat belts fit properly when:
(Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Child Passenger Safety Issue Report, 2008)
According to the new law your child must be EITHER 8 years old OR 4’9” tall to graduate out of a booster seat. However, there may be some petite 8+ year olds out there who would be safer staying in a booster until the seat belt fits properly.
Need More Help?
To find out when the next car seat check-up event is in your area, visit the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas’ Community Car Seat Calendar at: http://www.dellchildrens.net/classes_and_events/category/car_seat_safety/. You can also call the Injury Prevention Program’s TOTS line: 512-324-TOTS (8687)
Additional booster seat information can be found at the following websites:
Need help with car seats or booster seats? Families who could use additional car seat and booster seat resources should call the Safe Riders Program at 1-800-252-8255.