OK, this is the last installment of my series on carseat safety. (I’m sure all my childless readers are thankful for that!)
The reccomended guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics and most state’s laws are that a child may be transferred to a booster seat by the age of four AND 40 lbs. I’d like to give you a little more information beyond those limits that makes a case for what’s called “extended harnessing.”
Extended harnessing has found attention in the public eye through the Kyle David Miller Foundation, an organization set-up to honor the memory of a little boy who didn’t have to die. Kyle was in a car accident when he was riding in a booster seat at age 3, his seatbelt failed, and he was ejected from the car and killed. His parents weren’t aware that a 5-point harness carseat existed for a child of his size, and after the accident they learned that had he been in a 5-point harness, his life could have been saved.
Some reasons to keep your child in a 5-point harness beyond 4 years and 40 lbs.:
“Children under 7-10 years of age should not be placed into a booster seat. This is because the child’s iliac crests (hip bones) are not yet developed enough such that they prevent the adult seatbelt from resting on the soft abdomen. Therefore an adult seatbelt provides insufficient protection to the child and could result in internal injuries, possibly resulting in the death of the child.” Tom Bologa, President of Britax USA
The force of the crash is spread across five points of their body rather than three.
Even though some booster seats have adjusters, it is a concern that a child may not have the seatbelt positioned correctly over his chest and shoulder.
Wiggly kids aren’t safe. Seatbelts are designed to work when you’re sitting up and back, so that the emergency locking mechanism will kick-in and the belt stays tight, allowing no slack, in the event of a crash. Young children often don’t have the maturity to stay still and keep the belt correctly positioned throughout the entire duration of the car ride. When a child leans foward and the belt is stretched, that allows for more room for their body to be ejected foward in a crash.
Carseats with a 5-point harness have an added safety of the top tether. This stabilizes the carseat (and the child) against the seat of the car during a crash. This greatly reduces the amount of foward motion and space a child’s head will cover when they are flung foward.
“The number one killer of children in America is vehicle crashes. The problem with that statement is that nothing is changing. Now if that statement was, for example, the number one killer is childhood cancer what would happen? The parents would be all over the doctors to find a cure. But the responsibility lays in the parents hands and nobody is doing anything about it.
Best practice is ABOVE the law, not just the law minimum. Children are not replaceable, so its worth it for a parent to take the extra steps to make their child safe. The saddest part is too many people worry about vanity and others’ thoughts. They may think that their 6 year old will look too big for that forward facing child restraint, or that their best friend will nag on them about using a forward facing child restraint for their 8 year old. All a belt positioning booster seat does is lift a child off the vehicle seat to sit better behind the seat belt, both at the shoulder and how the belt lays across the hips. A 5-point forward facing child restraint provides all the extra safety that is above mentioned.” (Kris Abbink Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician)
A few reccomendations for seats:
- Britax Regent – This is a foward-facing only seat that holds from 22 lbs. to 80 lbs. $250-300
Sunshine Kids Radian80 – This rear-faces up to 33 lbs. and foward-faces up to 80 lbs. $250-300
- Any other previously mentioned seat that harnesses above 40 lbs.
Are combination/3-in-1 seats reccomended? (one seat that changes from a convertible carseat to a booster)
No, not generally. While these seats are safe, they tend to have very low harness height which means your child will likely outgrow the 5-pt. harness BEFORE he is 40 lbs/4 years old… which leaves you with the decision of putting him in a booster seat before it is safe or buying another seat. This could be unsafe and a waste of money. You’d do better to just invest in a higher weight-limit seat in the beginning and use it for longer.
OK, let’s be honest. Unless you’re really convinced by the safety facts, you’re probably saying to yourself, “This is ridiculous. We hardly even wore seatbelts when I was a kid, and I’m fine, I can’t imagine my 80 lb. child sitting in a carseat!” To that I say, thank God our parents weren’t in a serious crash because we’d probably be dead. Let’s not jeopardize our children’s life for the sake of the “I’m ok” argument. For more information, see www.car-safety.com.