Does my child need a car booster seat?
Q: How much longer should my 7-year-old daughter use a car booster seat?
A: While age is a good guide, it's more about size. She needs a booster until she's 4'9" - around age 10-12. While adult seat belts are better than no restraint, booster seats position the belt across the chest and thighs so the belt can do the best job in protecting the child.
Since the late 1990s, there's been a remarkable rise in child restraint system (CRS) use through age 8: from 51 percent in 1999 to 80 percent in 2007. This has translated into a 46 percent drop in child traffic fatalities from 2001 to 2010. This progress can be attributed to increased legislation, education, and improvements to safety technology in vehicles.
Now there is a new challenge - ensuring that children are properly and securely restrained in the correct CRS. A 2004 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 72.6 percent of child restraints seen in parking areas through the U.S. had at least one "critical" misuse, including:
- Not using the appropriate CRS for the child's age,
- Incorrectly attaching the CRS to the vehicle,
- Not harnessing the child in the CRS correctly
These types of misuse can cause movement - child loose in the seat, or seat loose in the vehicle - that, in a crash, can lead to sudden jerking, impact of the child in the vehicle or, worse, ejection from the seat.
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has created a checklist for parents and caregivers that explains these errors and how to avoid them. See the list at http://alturl.com/pucrh.
Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston is scientific director of CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention.