Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Too big for a booster?

Today is Bebe's last day of being 7 years old. California law states that "Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat." According to the law, tomorrow Bebe can legally ride without a booster seat.

We went to the pediatrician the other day, and she is 51" tall and 58 pounds. She is exactly 50% for height and weight. You could say she's the size of an average 8-year-old girl.

How do you know if your child still needs to be in a booster or not? They can safely ride in a seat belt without a booster if they pass the 5-step test:
  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?
I decided just for fun to take her out to my car (a 2nd generation Honda CR-V) to see how close she is to passing the 5-step test. Here's a picture to illustrate:

Looking at the picture, let's evaluate according to the 5-step test:
  1. Yes, she is sitting against the back of the vehicle seat.
  2. While it appears that her knees are comfortably bent, they are bending about an inch or more from the edge of the seat.
  3. The seat belt cuts into her neck, not between her neck and arm.
  4. The lap belt rides way up on her abdomen, barely coming across her thighs.
  5. Who knows the answer to this question--we won't be trying!
As you can see, she has a long way to go before she'll be ready to fit into a seat belt without a booster. It perfectly illustrates that what is considered legal is not always best practice. I know as she gets older, that she will struggle with peers who comment on her use of a booster, but Bebe has been well-informed of the benefits of car seat safety, and I am hoping that information will equip her with the strength to stand up to them.

I have several friends whose children are already out of booster seats (and are around Bebe's age, or some younger). While each parent has different reasons for having their child ride booster-free, I have yet to hear one that makes sense.

"It hurts his leg/back/neck/random body part." Those body parts are going to hurt a lot more in a crash if he's improperly restrained.

"She's so small that if I kept her in a booster until 4'9" or 80 pounds, she'd be in high school!" Obviously, there comes a point where you can decide accordingly, but if your child is tiny, how does being restrained improperly help in the present?

"His/her butt was too big for it." There are plenty of seats on the market to choose from. 

We all want to keep our children safe, and I feel as if car seat safety is becoming a bigger topic now than it was when Bebe was born, but there still needs to be even more information out there, especially for parents of older children like her.

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