Car Seat Safety: Frequently Asked Questions...Answered!

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seatbelt safety, booster seatI learned two things by posting the booster seat giveaway last week (stay tuned, winner announced soon!). One, moms really want to win the adorable Clek Olli booster, and two, you have questions galore about car seat safety--sensible parenting considering the sobering facts: car accidents are the leading cause of death for children between 3 -14.

For much more on car seat safety, check out last week's Daily Buzz across all the parenting channels; many of your questions can be answered that way. As far as big kids and car safety goes, look no further. I've read though your many questions and concerns all last week, and I picked the most frequently asked questions to send to my experts including:

CarSeatJunkie, a real CafeMom who was almost killed by a drunk driver 12 years ago. While pregnant with her first child, she attended a car seat safety class. By the time she became pregnant with her second she decided to become certified. Today she is a certified car seat safety instructor.

Christopher Lumley, Vice President and General Manager of Clek.

Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical advisor for Safe Kids Buckle Up.

Wanna know what the experts say the biggest mistake moms make with boosters? Moving their kids into boosters too soon, and moving them out of boosters too soon.

Here are your FAQs about big kid car safety, answered:

What is the difference between a booster with a back (highback) and one without a back? Are there different height and weight requirements for each?

For both the highback booster and the backless booster the height and weight requirements are the same. Your child should be at least 40 pounds and no heavier than 80-100 pounds, and 4'9" or under. The main advantage to a high back booster is that if you have child that tends to sleep in the car or slump down, it gives them extra support. In a frontal collision, which represents the majority of collisions, there is little to no difference between a backless and highback booster seat. However, in a side-impact collision, a highback booster with side wings may provide additional head and torso support.

Is there a website that tells you the car seat laws from state to state? 

Absolutely. Click here. Provided by Clek, this is one of the most comprehensive state-by-state guides to safety belt and car seat laws. But remember that some state laws don't encourage the safest car seat practices. In other words, for safety reasons, your child may still need to ride in a booster longer than the state mandates.

My 5-point harness goes up to 65 lbs. Should I keep my child in it until then? Isn't that much safer than a booster seat?

Yes, you should, provided your child has not exceeded the weight or height regulations for that seat. However, many older/larger children complain about 5-point harnesses making them feel like "babies." A booster seat (used properly with the vehicle's built-in safety belt system) is an equally safe remedy for that.

What about older children who complain about sitting in a booster? I didn't sit in a booster seat. Is it really necessary?

In most cases it is absolutely necessary. In some states the law hasn't caught up to the reality that children under a certain size--regardless of their age--can be severely hurt or killed by airbags or collision impact if they don't fit the vehicle's safety belt properly. Vehicle safety systems are built for a 5th percentile female (4 foot 9 inches) and taller. So, until a child reaches that size, the vehicle belt system will not fit properly. Specifically, the lap portion of the lap-and-shoulder belt rides up into the abdomen, which in an accident causes soft tissue damage (and possible spinal cord damage). The child needs to be elevated so that the belt rides low on the hips and across the chest plate/collar bone (the bony areas of the body). For example, a child who is 8 but only 70 lbs and 4'5", should be in a booster. Take the 5 step booster test to determine if your child still needs to ride in a booster. If so, letting him/her pick out a seat that looks like it was made for older kids (animal print, camo etc.) can be helpful.

Is it okay to put a booster in the front seat?

Never. The back seat is the safest place to ride in any car--for everyone, adults included. A child that still needs a booster should never ride in the front. State laws allow children 13 and older to ride in the front seat, however, all children should ride in the back as much as possible.

Are booster seats required on planes?

No. Booster seats are not approved for use on airplanes.There are, however, specific harnesses available for use on an airplane.

I hope this answers your major Q's about big kid car seat safety. I know it helped me answer mine! Should you still have questions, send them on, I'll try to get them answered.

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