Parents are primarily responsible for ensuring their kids’ safety when riding in their vehicles. However, thousands of young kids die or sustain injuries every year due to car accidents. While most parents have appreciated the use of car seats for kids’ safety, most don’t understand how to use these seats properly.
Using car seats properly is key to your child’s safety. However, with different car seats available on the market, most parents find it overwhelming to understand the safety requirements of each seat. The best car seat for your child depends on various factors, including the child’s age, size, and milestones. Below is a guide on using booster car seats.
What Is a Booster Seat?
Booster seats are typical car seats that keep your child safe in the car. You should use these seats once your child outgrows the normal car seats with a five-point harness. While there are harness booster seats, most booster seats allow children to use seat belt restraints when riding in the car. Children sit on top of booster seats to “lift” them to the correct height/position of the adult seat belt.
When Is Your Child Ready to Move into a Booster Seat?
Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine if your child can rightfully move into a booster seat. While parents should follow general guidelines that determine the child’s readiness, children have different growth rates. Ideally, kids from four years can outgrow the weight and height limitations of the five-point harness provided by car seats. However, before switching your kid’s car seat, make sure they meet these requirements:
- They should be four years and above
- They should weigh at least 40 pounds
- If they have outgrown the height requirements or internal harness of a forward-facing car seat
- Your child can willingly stay in the booster seat the entire ride with a seat belt fitted below their hips and across the shoulder.
As a rule, don’t be in a hurry to switch from a normal car seat to a booster seat, especially if they can still fit the five-point harness car seat. Car seats are always the safest option.
What Are the Types of Booster Seats?
Once your child meets the requirements to move into a booster seat, your next hurdle is figuring out the best type of booster seat and. Like car seats, there are various booster seats available on the market. The three main types include;
1. High-Back Booster Seats
High back booster seats have additional side bolsters around the head, neck, and sides, which absorb shock providing adequate protection in case of a car crash. Installing and using these seats is easy, as they come with guides that help users find the correct position of placing seat belts. In most cases, high back seats are secured into the vehicle’s seat by a latch.
Most crash tests have shown that side-impact protection provided by the side bolsters significantly reduces the extent of injuries, specifically whiplash when fixed and used correctly. High-back seats are best for young and small children who need belt-positioning seats and additional head support.
In some high-back booster seats, you can remove the back, converting the seat into a backless booster. This makes such models perfect for storage, travel, and use by old children who don’t need additional head support.
2. Backless Booster Seats
These are the traditional seats with a cushion that boosts the child from the vehicle seat to provide better belt positioning. Like high-back seats, most backless boosters can be secured into the vehicle’s seat with a latch system. Others are simply placed into the seat.
If you prefer backless booster seats, ensure that your child’s ears align with the top of your vehicle’s back seats for maximum protection of the head and neck in case a crash occurs. These seats are best for vehicles with headrests.
Older children prefer backless seats because they don’t have the inconvenience associated with car seats and high back seat harnesses. However, they are also compact, inexpensive, lightweight, and best for families with multiple car seats, small vehicles, or need to move seats between different vehicles often.
3. Combination Harness to Booster Seats
A combination harness to booster seats is typically high back booster seats with the additional protection of the removable five-point harness. Your child will be safe from injuries if they stay longer in a five-point harness. However, if they have exceeded the height and weight limitations of the harness, combination seats allow you to remove the five-point harness, converting the seat into a high-back booster.
Combination boosters are a good choice for parents looking for the best value when buying car seats. Most combination seats accommodate small children who have outgrown convertible car seats but require the protection of the five-point harness.
What Are the Benefits of the Five-Point Harness?
Typical car seats and combination harness to booster seats have the five-point harness system, which is beneficial in several ways. Every time your kid graduates to the next level of the seat belt, they lose one layer of protection. The five-point harness of car seats fits small children better than booster seats with seat belts. This means better support and protection in case of a crash.
When Should Kids Stop Using Booster Seats?
Your child can stop using booster seats when:
- They have outgrown the booster and are big enough to fit into the vehicle’s shoulder and lap seat belts. For this, ensure that the child can sit comfortably with their backs leaning against the back seat and knees bent over the seat’s edge without slouching.
- If the lap belt lies low or on top of the child’s thighs and the shoulder belt is in the middle of the chest.
- If they can stay in this sitting position throughout the ride. In most situations, this happens when the child is 150 centimeters in height or eight to 12 years old.
Children can outgrow their car seats quickly. However, this doesn’t mean their safety when traveling should depend only on the vehicle’s seat belt. Using a booster seat ensures that your child fits into the seat belt comfortably and stays safe in case of an accident. Children sitting on a booster seat are 60% safer than those using seat belts only. Parents should also adhere to safe driving tips to minimize the chances of accidents.