It’s time to test your booster seat safety IQ. If you’re like most parents, your score might not be that great. According to a national survey by car seat manufacturer Chicco, most parents are not sure about the use of booster seats or what safety features to look for. How well do you know the safest and best booster seats? Here’s your chance to find out to ensure your child is safe when riding in vehicles.
Making the Switch
How do you determine when it’s time for your child to use a booster seat? If you’re like the 95 percent of parents with children ages 1 to 10, you probably responded with an age or a height and weight. Actually, it’s a combination of three factors: age, height and weight, and the maturity of your child to sit in a booster without moving around for the entire trip.
Remember, when kids transition to a booster seat, they are losing key safety protection features that were provided with the forward-facing car seat. That’s why child safety experts recommend keeping your child in a car seat until the maximum height, weight and age requirements on the car seat are met.
Additional guidelines to use for determining your child’s booster seat readiness are:
- Your child can sit upright without leaning or slouching for the entire ride.
- The vehicle’s shoulder belt rests across the middle of your child’s collarbone, not the neck.
- The vehicle’s lap belt rests across the top of your child’s thighs, not the stomach.
- Your child very rarely or never falls asleep while riding in a vehicle.
- Your child is mature enough to understand and follow the rules of riding in a vehicle all the time, every time.
The Key Factor in Selecting a Booster Seat
What is the most important factor to look for when buying a booster seat? Less than half of the parents surveyed gave the correct answer: design. The design of the booster seat is paramount so that your vehicle’s shoulder and lap seat belts properly fit your child.
Booster seats are available in two design types: backless and high-back. A backless booster gives your child a lift so the vehicle’s shoulder and lap belt system fits properly. A high-back booster is designed to support your child’s head, neck, torso and rear. Here’s how to choose between the two:
Choose a backless booster seat if:
- The rear seat of the vehicle is deeply contoured to snugly fit the booster so it doesn’t tip over;
- The rear seat is high enough for your child’s head to touch the back seat headrest;
- The vehicle’s seat belt system properly fits across your child’s shoulder, chest and hips.
Choose a high-back booster seat if:
- Your vehicle’s shoulder belt anchors are either too close or too far from your child’s shoulder;
- The rear seat in the vehicle has a low back;
- There are no headrests in the vehicle’s back seat or they are not high enough to support your child’s head.
Deciding Which Booster Seat Is Best
Motor vehicle safety agencies, such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, frequently release booster seat reviews to inform parents of which boosters are the best based on how well they fit and install correctly in all types of vehicles and how well they fit children correctly.
The majority of independent booster seat reviews agree that the best booster seats are those with a high back. Unlike backless booster seats, high-back booster seats have higher sides that provide added support for your child’s head and neck.
Good booster car seats (high-back) typically have these safety features:
- A design that accommodates all vehicle safety belt systems so the booster seat properly fits the child and the vehicle;
- Harnesses and accessories that make it easier to customize the fit to your child;
- Belt-positioning guides to ensure proper positioning of seat belts across the middle of your child’s chest to the torso;
- Side clips at various heights so the fit of the booster can be adjusted as your child grows;
- Padded side headrests in case your child falls asleep in the vehicle.
Kids grow up so fast, but when it comes to safety when riding in a vehicle, parents must take it slow. Trust the experts and follow their guidelines as to when to switch your child to a booster seat. It will give you peace of mind and your child the best level of safety.