Putting Your Child in a Booster Seat Too Soon Could Have Tragic Consequences

Heartbreaking 60

seat beltThere was a terrible car accident in Las Vegas earlier this week, which killed 3-year-old girl Emily Kay and left her father, Casey Barringer, in critical condition. My heart goes out to the family, and I'm hoping the father makes a recovery from his injuries, but even so, recovering from losing a child is never going to truly happen. It is suspected that the booster seat Emily Kay was properly secured into was actually not safe for her to be in. The family is going public with the story because they were unaware that Emily was too small for the booster seat and that she would have been safer in a car seat.

I want to make it clear, no one is blaming anyone for this tragedy, as some booster seats say they are safe for kids as little as 30 pounds. But the truth is, they are not. It hurt my heart to read this story. But there is a lot we can learn from it.

I see parents nearly every day improperly putting their child in their car seat or using a seat that is unsafe. I'm sure they think they are doing it right. I've made mistakes -- I thought I was doing it right, but that's why it's called a mistake. Just like why an accident is called an accident -- it's not something you want to do or plan. It happens. Which is why car seat safety is very serious business and we all need to learn more and stay up-to-date on the latest recommendations and laws.

"No one really realizes how quickly it can happen," Ashley Orr, the father's fiance, told Action News 13. "It happens in an instant, but the damage is permanent. Our little girl didn't make it. People need to realize that even one tiny mistake, can make all the difference."

What we all need to know, including car seat manufacturers, is that we shouldn't put a child in a booster seat before the recommended age of 4 years old and 40 pounds minimum. We also shouldn't let a child out of a booster before the minimum age of 8 years old and 4'9". This is just the bare minimum and doesn't mean we should be rushing to do it. In most kids, the vertebrae arch hasn't fused into a circle, which is what protects the spine until around the age of 3 to 6, so their spine isn't as strong, which is why we keep our kids in the properly secured seats to prevent injury. So why do some seats say it's okay for your child to use a booster at 3 years and 30 pounds? Who knows, but it's wrong. Plus it doesn't mean it's legal in your state as each state has their own set of car seat safety laws. Besides, we want to do what best and safest, not what a piece of paper says on a product, right? Many of the better brand car seats and boosters have the proper recommendations. This is one area you don't want to buy cheap.

This was a head-on collision. And this little 3-year-old just wasn't safe in a booster with a lap belt holding her in. Too small; too easily could she be released out of what seemed to be secure. Too easily could she sustain life-threatening injuries.

I have 3-year-old twins. The same age as this little girl who died. This story is that of nightmares. I worry about car accidents. But I was lucky enough to work where I work and have friends who really know about car seat safety. Not everyone is privy to that information, which is why we need to get it out there. We need to spread the word to save lives. My 3-year-olds are still rear-facing in car seats. And they will be until they are 40 pounds, which is what our seats allow. I'm not in a rush for my kids to grow up or graduate to forward-facing. Not when their safety depends on it.

Jeanne Cosgrove Marsala, the director of Safe Kids at Sunrise Children's Hospital, told the news that it is a common misconception to think a booster is safe for a 3-year-old. She went on:

You should never put a child under 40 pounds in a backless booster seat that only uses the adult-sized safety belt as a restraint. You should keep a child in a car seat with an over-the-head harness for as long as possible.

We don't know if a different car seat would have meant a different outcome in this accident, but Marsala said it could help save other lives. She shared that 90 percent of us are doing something wrong when it comes to car seats. We all need to educate ourselves and help others because 90 percent wrong could mean a lot of deaths.

The community in Las Vegas has rallied together along with the local hospital to help educate parents about car seat safety. We should be doing this in our own towns as well, and we can find help in SafeKids.org to find a location near you to keep you informed of the latest and safest rules.

I'm praying for that family. And also praying more parents learn about how to keep their children safest when in cars.

Did you know about the booster seat rule on how it's not recommended until kids are 4? How do you stay up-to-date on car seat safety?


Image via goodgerster/Flickr

car seat safety


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nonmember avatar Kelli

My son is 4 and he is still in a 5 point car seat, where he will remain until he outgrows it. He is 42 inches tall and weighs 38 pounds.

nonmember avatar Daune

You can also have the fire department or police check the fit of your car seat. Some city so hold events where you can get instructions for installing the car seat.

Car seats are not a universal fit for all cars. When purchasing a car seat ask to take the floor model to your car and check the fit. And always place your knee in the base or seat of the car seat when installing it to make sure it is as secure as possible

Kate Tietje

My oldest is 5 and 40-some lbs. and still in a "real" car seat, probably won't even enter a booster for another year. My 17-month-old is still rear-facing (he is around 25 lbs.) and will be until he is about 3. That is how we keep them safe in the car. Although we can't prevent everything, we should do the best we can to keep our kids safe.

alway... alwayscurious

My daughter was turned around at one, a few years ago when that was still pretty much the norm, so im, not trying to be snarky with my question here. What on earth does a 3 year old do with it's legs when facing backwards? I'm not saying its dumb or anything like that, I an just honestly curious. :-)

corri... corrinacs

Unfortunately, I wish it was more based on SIZE.  Because my son was TOO TALL for his carseat before he was 4.  It was unsafe for him, becuase his height was several inches above the threshold for the safety of the seat before we even changed it!  His poor head had no support at all, if we had been in a collision, I could imagine his neck snapping.  So, we felt we had to upgrade him.

Yes, he's tall....and skinny oddly enough.  Future basketball player?  I think so.

k.stark k.stark

always: Kids sit criss cross applesauce and also prop their feet up on the back of the seat....  

corrinacs: when forward facing the straps must come from above the shoulders... also there are car seats out there with 5pt harnesses the go up to 20" tall and 85lbs weight limit. There are options people just need the education to know what is out there to properly fit their child. 

Jaimie Leader-Goodale

Alwayscurious: a 3 year old sits "indian style" or puts their feet up on the seat. We as adults I think forget how flexible the kidlets are, and think "how can that be comfortable???" but the truth is - my 2 3/4 year old was perfectly comfortable rear facing - she was just getting to the heigh limit of the seat so I turned her. I turned my older at 1 not knowing any better also, but even for 9-10 hour drives my youngest never had a problem with her legs. I think she even enjoyed "pushing" at the seat to work her legs.

nonmember avatar Samantha

Im no expert, but are we babying out kids more and more each year? Lets keep em on the bottle longer. In diapers longer. On pacifiers longer. In baby seats longer. Wtf is going on? I understand that safety rules change, but there are some seriously ridiculous things going on in the world today.

peanu... peanutsmommy1

My ds is seven and still harnessed. Safety is a non negotiable issue in my house

Senia... Seniahmom

Samantha I agree with you on everything except the part about "baby seats".

Car seats is one area where children should be kept in to the maximum limits not the minimum. This isn't for "babying" but for true safety. The physics of an accident combined with the anatomy & physiology of children has led ton amazing strides in car seats and the proper usage thereof has reduced the number of fatalities.

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