October is Booster Seat Safety Month, and it is a good time to make sure that your child is riding safely in the car.
Most parents understand that their infant and toddler need to ride in a car seat, but many put their kids into regular seat belts way too early, which means that they aren't fully protected if they are in a car accident.
Remember that most children between the ages of 4 and 8 years old, or 40 and 80 pounds, should still be riding in a belt-positioning booster seat.
It is a little hard to convince these older children to ride in a booster seat when most parents don't even seem to understand that they are necessary though. It may make it easier to understand if you keep in mind that:
- Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 4 and 8 years old, and many of these children aren't properly restrained.
- Motor vehicle accidents are also one of the top 10 causes of non-fatal injuries for children at this age.
- Seat belts are made for adult size people. Your child won't be ready to only use seat belts until they weigh about 80 pounds or they are 4'9" tall. Until that time, a lap belt will likely ride high on your child's abdomen and the shoulder strap may ride over their neck, either of which can cause serious injuries in an accident.
- Many states are changing their laws to make them more in line with what is safe for children, including New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wyoming. In many of these states, children will be required to be 7 or 8 years old or 80 pounds before being allowed to ride with just regular seat belts. Unfortunately, there are still states like Texas, where you only need to keep your child in a car seat if they are under age 4...
- Like most other issues, most children will sit in their booster if you are firm about it, you emphasize that it is for safety, and you highlight other features, such as cup holders, arm rests, being able to look out the window, etc.
- If your child is very resistant to sitting in a high-back booster seat, and your car has built-in head restraints (head rests), then you may be able to use a low-back booster seat, which looks much less like a car seat. Low-back booster are also inexpensive, easy to move between cars, and hard to see from outside the car, so your child's friends don't even have to know that they are in a car seat if that is a big deal.
Is it really worth taking the chance of your child dying in a car accident, when a simply thing like sitting in a booster seat might save their life?
Of course not. So get your child a booster seat once they outgrow their forward facing toddler seat, and have them ride in it in the back seat whenever they are in the car.
You should also make sure that your child sits in a booster when he rides with friends and family.