A few weeks ago, I took my daughter and a few of her friends out for the afternoon. When they got in the car, one of them started to tease Journey a bit because she still has a booster seat. Apparently, her friend—who is smaller than J, I might add—doesn’t use a booster seat anymore. And she’s not the only one.
Lately, I’ve noticed that several of my daughter’s friends are no longer using booster seats. I assume that the reason that parents have gotten rid of them is because they think the child is big enough or old enough. Or maybe the child has pleaded to toss it because it is embarrassing to still ride in a “baby” seat. And no big kid wants to be called a baby. While I am sure that no parent would intentionally put their child at risk of harm, when they prematurely remove a booster seat, that’s exactly what they are doing.
I explained to J’s friend that she still has the seat because she is not big enough to ride without it. I wanted to say more, but of course that would not have been appropriate. I struggle with how to confront parents about topics like this. No parent wants to be told that they are doing something “wrong” by another parent. But when it comes to safety, haven’t all parents taken a silent oath to protect a child—any child—from harm’s way? While I ponder over my decision, I figured this post might help another parent that might be unaware of seat guidelines.
There are several factors to consider before removing your child from a booster seat:
There is no universal height/weight/age requirement
Previously, it was considered to be 4’ 9”/80lbs/age 8. But what if you have a short 8-year-old or a heavier 6-year-old? Which is probably why if you do a Google search, you won’t really find a clear answer. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages you to refer to your car seat manufacturer for height/weight requirements. SafetyBeltSafe, a child passenger safety advocacy group has developed a 5-step test to determine if you child still needs a booster seat. I like this test because it allows you to look at your child according to body type:
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?
The make and model of the car
Your child’s legs might meet step 2 in a compact car, but fail in an SUV. If possible, do the test in all vehicles that your child will ride in frequently.
The car safety laws in your state
Each state has different child safety laws. Check the laws in your state.
According to the CDC, Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. Being embarrassed is not a good enough reason to put my child’s life at risk by getting rid of her booster seat. There is a laundry list of things that I don’t let my daughter do just because “everyone else is doing it” and this isn’t any different.
If you were not aware of these guidelines, hopefully this post will help you make an informed decision about when to get rid of your child’s seat. For more resources on car safety, click here.
Do you think I should tell the parents that their child still needs a booster seat?