Monday, January 30, 2012

Booster Seats

The minimum to ride in a booster is 4yrs AND 40lbs. Children are typically not mature enough till 5-7 years old though. Children should not move out of their harness and into a booster until they are mature enough to remain seated 100% of the time. Louisiana law requires that children be 40lbs to ride in a booster.

How to Tell When Your Child has Out Grown Their Forward Facing Harness Seat

Each car seat comes with a weight limits for each stage the car seat can sit (rear facing, forward facing, and booster). Some come with a height limit. You should look in the car seat's manual to see what are the forward facing harness weight and height limit. Once your child reaches either of these they have out grown the car seat rear facing.
A forward facing harness seat is also out grown if the child's shoulders are above the top harness slot or the child's ears are even with the top of the top of the car seat.

Types of Boosters
There are two types of boosters. High back booster and a backless booster. Boosters range in weight and height limits. From 3yrs and 30lbs (which I would not recommend nor is it legal in Louisiana) to 63" and 120lbs.

High Back Booster

A High back booster is simply a booster with the back part. It looks very similar to a harness car seat but without the harness. High back booster are a great starting point when begining to booster a child. It feel more like a car seat which helps remind the child to sit correctly. Its great for kids who still fall asleep in the car. They can rest their heads on the side of the booster. It can also be easier to use with a child who needs the shoulder portion of the belt positioned with a belt guide. Most of the high back boosters on the market can have the back removed converting it into a backless booster.

Backless Booster

A backless booster is simply a booster without a back. These are great for older boostered kids, around 8yrs old. Most of these boosters come with a shoulder belt positioning clip. Its the little string with the clip on one end. This hooks to the back of the booster, runs along the child's back and hooks to the shoulder portion of the belt. It is adjusted so that the shoulder part of the belt fits correctly on the shoulder of the child. Follow your boosters manual on how to properly use this if the shoulder portion of the belt doesn't fit your child correctly.

  • A booster seat should NEVER be used with a lap belt only. This is very dangerous.
  • Never allow for a child to put the shoulder portion of the belt behind their backs. Putting a seat belt behind a child's back is the same as putting them in a lap only belt. You take away all their upper body protection.
  • When using a backless booster make sure there is adequate head support. The top of child's head should not be above the top of the seat. If possible adjust the head rest to be above the top of the child's head. If there is not adequate head support a high back booster is safer.
How to Use a Booster
Installation video (high back and backless)
Installation video (backless with shoulder belt positioning clip)
ALWAYS read over your child's car sea
t/booster manual!

Before buying a booster you should always try the booster out on your child first. Not every booster will offer the best fit for every child. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does offer a list of booster broken down into best bets, good bets, and not recommended. This is a good list to start with when researching boosters for your child. The best bets are more likely to fit an average child, not that a not recommended seat wont offer your child a good fit it is just more unlikely that it will.
The shoulder portion of the belt should rest across the collar bone, not on the neck and not falling off the shoulder. The lap portion of the belt should lay low on your child's hips or upper thighs, not on the child's tummy.
Products to Avoid

There are several products on the market that claim to offer proper belt fit but do not. You should avoid these products and never use them on a child. These products may say they are crash tested but there are no standards to hold these products to. These products do not offer correct fit and they can be deadly! Here are a few examples of these products:
Boosters with LATCH

Some booster come with lower LATCH. This does not aid in the protection of the child though. The lower LATCH anchors are to help the booster from becoming a projectile when the child isn't in it. A loose booster in a car wreck could fly around and hit someone in the car. This can cause injury to other passengers. Its important that you either use the LATCH anchors with your booster, only if your vehicle also allows boosters to be LATCHed check your vehicle manual, OR to buckle in unused boosters.
Combination seats (seats that harnesses then booster) sometimes allow you to use the LATCH while the seat is a booster. Check both your car and car seat manual to see if this is OK.

The Inflatable Booster

There are two inflatable booster on the market right now. The EasyCarSeat and the BubbleBum. The Easy Car Seat is a high back booster. This particular inflatable booster is not recommended. It often does not offer a good belt fit and it causes children to slip under the seat belt. The BubbleBum however is a highly recommended backless booster. It fits children well and offers proper protection in a crash. You can read a review here on the BubbleBum :

Boosters are for Big Kids

Seat belts are made to fit adult males. Seat belts are not meant to fit children. The job of a booster is to boost the child up so that the seat belt can fit them correctly. Children will normally need a booster till they are 4ft 9in tall. This is some where around 10-12 years old. It is also best that a child has reached puberty before riding without a booster. Prior to the time before puberty children do not have fully formed pelvises. The Iliac Crest is a part of the pelvis that forms during puperty. The Iliac Crest is the thickened and expanded bone rim at the upper border of the ilium. This part of the pelvis in adults helps hold the lap bet in position. Without it the seat belt can ride up on the belly and cause internal damage. This is also why a teenager or adult who is under 4ft 9in doesn't need a booster. They have a fully formed pelvis, children do not.

John's Story

John is the father of two daughters. His wife and kids were in a head on collision. His wife died instantly. His 7 year old daughter Merdith was not in a booster seat. She suffered life altering injuries. She will never walk or run again, she will never graduate high school and her injuries will be something she and her family will have to deal with daily for the rest of her life. A booster could have helped prevent her injuries.

How to Tell When a Child No Longer Needs a Booster

Your child needs to pass the 5 step test before they can ride without a booster. If you answer no to any of these 5 questions your child still needs a booster seat.

1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

Children need to ride in the back seat till they are at least 13 years of age. The back seat is twice as safe as the front seat!