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Many parents ask whether or not a booster seat is worth it. Booster seats are designed to help kids stay safe by allowing them to use seat belts as a restraint. When a child outgrows their car seat, they should use a booster seat which allows the seat belt to protect their chest and pelvis area.
Ideally, a booster seat should be used for all children who are too big to use a front-facing car seat but too small to use a seat belt. The booster seat raises their upper body, ensuring they are aligned with the standard seat belt.
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What Is the Difference Between a Car Seat and a Booster Seat?
As children grow, they are likely to use different car seats. Infants and toddlers use rear-facing car seats that offer protection in case of impact. These seats are rigorously tested to offer children the best protection.
When a child outgrows a car seat’s height and weight limits, they switch to a booster seat. A booster seat is a positioning device that does not come with impact protection. Some booster seats come with tethers to make it easy to attach them to the seat; however, most do not have a harness.
In place of the harness, booster seats use the seat belt to keep your child safe.
Read more: Everything To Know About Child Car Seats
When Is Your Child Ready to Use a Booster Seat?
Once a child has exceeded a car seat’s height and weight limit, they are ready for a booster seat. Children with disabilities may need to use a car seat longer, so always ensure that you have one with an extended weight limit.
Your child must also be able to stay still when using a booster seat to ensure that the seat belt stays in place. If your child cannot wear the seat belt properly, even in a booster seat, they should probably use a harness car seat even if they have exceeded the height and weight limit.
It is also important to note that booster seats should always be used on the back seat. In the event of an accident, the backseat is the safest place in a car, and it prevents children from impact against the airbags, which can be dangerous and even fatal to children.
As a general guide, use a booster seat when:
- Your child is over 8 years old
- The lap belt fits across your child’s upper thighs and hips
- The child’s feet touch the floor
- The child’s knees bend at the edge of the seat
- The shoulder belt fits across their shoulder and chest and not across their neck or face
Types of Booster Seats
The booster seat positioning helps children to safely use the car’s shoulder and lap seat belts. For this purpose, they come in various styles, including:
- High-back booster seats: These are recommended for cars with low seat backs.
- Backless booster seats: These are ideal for cars where a child’s head is supported up to the ears by the car’s back seat and head support.
- Combination booster seats: These are similar to high-back booster seats but come with a 5-point harness. They can be used as belt-positioning booster seats or forward-facing safety car seats when the harness is removed. They are ideal for kids weighing over 40 pounds.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping your child in a forward-facing seat equipped with a full harness. If your car does not have shoulder seat belts on the back seat, it is probably best to get them installed by a professional.
Booster Seats and Seat Belt Safety
Even without a booster seat, never fasten the shoulder strap under the child’s arm or behind their back. This not only puts your child at risk in case of an accident, but they could also suffer injuries caused by the belt.
Children should never share a booster seat. In case of a crash, their heads could collide, causing major injuries.
If you carpool, consider buying extra booster seats. This is especially important when you do not know whether a child meets the height requirements to use seat belts. Do not take chances by letting a child who is not tall enough use the seat belt ride without a booster seat in your car.
Booster Seats and Air Bags
Seat belts and airbags are designed to keep adults and teens safe in case of an accident. However, they were not designed with children in mind. Airbags can injure and even kill children when they are sitting in the front passenger seat.
It is important to note that airbags open with a lot of force at up to 200 miles per hour. They are designed to protect a 165-pound adult from injury in a collision. This force is fine for most adults. However, it is dangerous for small children and can result in head and neck injuries.
To protect your child from injury:
- Always use a booster seat in the back seat
- If you must use a booster seat in the front passenger seat, push the seat as far back as it can go
- By law, car manufacturers must install a manual cut-off to temporarily disable the passenger seat airbag. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends using this manual cut-off switch if you must place a child in a booster seat on the passenger seat. This is applicable to two-seater vehicles. Once you have removed the booster seat, remember to switch on the airbag.
- Always place kids under 13 in the back seat, preferably in the middle when possible.
- All passengers, including those in booster seats, must have their seat belts buckled during the entire ride.
Does Your Booster Fit Properly?
It is not necessary to install a booster seat in the same way you would install a car seat. This is because booster seats are designed to have the child’s weight hold it in place while the seat belt ensures that they are safe.
When you place the child in the booster seat, the seat belt should lie on the part where the arm connects with the shoulder, away from the neck, flat across the chest, and low on the upper thighs or hips.
Always ensure that the seat belt is not placed on the arm or behind the back. If the child is uncomfortable, use a car seat with a harness or a different booster seat with an adjustable belt guide.
Secure the booster seat using a seat belt even when it is not in use to keep it in place in case you need to stop suddenly.
Some booster seats are equipped with hooks that can be used to secure them to the lower anchors in the car. Remember that these anchors must be used alongside the seat belt to secure the child.
Is a Booster Seat Worth it?
Studies show that in a booster seat, whether backless or high-back, children are 45% less likely to suffer injuries. Compared to children using seat belts only, those in booster seats have approximately a 0.6% chance of injury.
Booster seats are designed to raise the child and help the seat belts fit properly, which reduces the chances of injury. In case of an accident, the crash force is evenly distributed, keeping your child safe.
While most children prefer the backless booster seats, which look less like baby car seats, parents all over the country are increasingly choosing booster seats of all types to keep their children safe. Do not compromise on safety; get a booster seat today.
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